Mention the word “suffering” and people are likely to think of a thousand things. When I think of suffering I think of my recent experience with losing three family members and my father being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Suffering I’ve come to realize isn’t any fun while you are going through it, but it does force one or two reactions. The first reaction is to “run” away from it and fill your life with a thousand things other than God. The final reaction is the better of the two options, which is to run towards God who heals broken people and hearts through the Gospel. In his brand new book Torn to Heal God’s Good Purposes in Suffering Pastor Mike Leake writes to help his readers think biblically and through Gospel-filled lenses about suffering. One example of this is the following on page 86:
“So the Bible acknowledges our suffering, fully and completely, without ever minimizing the present reality and pain, and without ever giving an inch to the powers of darkness that ever strive but ever fail to defeat God’s children. Indeed the Scriptures present suffering as a painful yet merciful tool in the hands of a loving God. Our loving Father uses the furnace of suffering to separate from us anything that will not lead to our ultimate delight. Though painful at the time, there is a good purpose of God in our suffering. He will tear us for the sake of healing us, and he will do it in love, for his eternal glory and our eternal good.”
I’ve learned through a variety of difficult experiences in my own life the truth Mike teaches here. Minimizing the pain or excusing it just doesn’t work. We may be in denial about our suffering or circumstances but denial can only last so long. If we don’t deal with the pain of death or hard situations, at some point, we will become jaded. God created us with emotions and those emotions are not to be diminished but experienced by grounding our lives in the Truth of God’s Word. Learning this took the first sixteen years of my life until finally I was so depressed and sick of everything I almost just gave up. Thankfully before I even got to this point, the Lord surrounded me with many godly people who helped me process my parent’s divorce and to make sense of it by lovingly pointing me to Jesus and modeling Christlike character.
This is what makes Mike’s book so powerful; it doesn’t minimize our emotions but it points to the God of the Bible who truly cares for us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that famous British preacher made the comment in his book I Am Unashamed on page 63 that all of our problems go back to our view of God. Our view of God as Leake rightly notes throughout his book following in the footsteps of Lloyd-Jones begins with a right (biblical) view of God.
I read this book in almost one sitting, something I haven’t done in a very long time. One of the reasons I read this book so fast (not to mention its short) was because Leake is a very engaging writer, and also because I’ve been processing recent events in my own life a lot recently. I read this book not as a critic (even though I was going to review it) but to think through this topic more and to be ministered to by the author. As I read this book through this lens, I was consistently reminded that God intends my suffering not to just beat me over the head, or because He is cruel, but rather because He genuinely cares for me and wants my good in order for me to grow in conformity to Jesus Christ. The author rightly notes that, “Suffering, then, is a means that God uses to draw believers into greater conformity with Jesus Christ. It is a God-ordained means to joy” (43).
Whether you are going through a difficult season or you aren’t, Torn to Heal has something for you. As you read this book you will be confronted by a Sovereign God who knows the pain you’ve experienced and who longs to meet with you in the midst of your pain in order to comfort you. While many people feel God is distant and disinterested about what they experience, it is books like Torn to Heal that will help people understand that the God of the Bible is actively interested in the affairs of man.
Whether you are presently experiencing suffering or not; there is good news for you, there isn’t an old normal, there is only the new normal with Christ at the center. Torn to Heal is the kind of book you will want to pick up and read in order to prepare for hardship, trials and difficulty. If you are presently going through difficult times please read Torn to Heal and allow Mike to lead you straight to the God of the Bible who truly cares for you and who longs to mend your broken heart with the Gospel that makes broken people whole.
Authors: Mike Leake
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2013)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cruciform Press book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”