Virtual Voices
David C. Cook

Review: Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free

Books

The book’s title, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, is somewhat misleading, for the author, Tullian Tchividjian, is an enemy of all analyses that want to talk about what suffering does. As far as his new book (published by David C. Cook and set to be released on Monday) is concerned, suffering, by itself, doesn’t set you free, mature you, make you a better person, or any of the other things that might seem to be good results. That’s Oprah, not the Gospel. The Bible’s good news is that God is trustworthy when life is crumbling. Don’t look to suffering to make you a better person, because it won’t. Look to suffering to remind you to put your faith in the sufficiency of Christ and His atoning work.

Though this book originated as a series of sermons to Tchividjian’s congregation at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it seems to not quite be sure whether suffering produces good or not. Telling stories from his own life—especially his parents’ dramatic divorce after 40 years together—and others’ lives about times when suffering produced something good, Tchividjian nonetheless insists that suffering is simply evil. It is not a stepping-stone to personal growth. Yet he insists equally strongly that suffering smashes our idols and forces us to rely wholly on the one true God. Only in the affirmation that the Lord remains blessed whether He gives or takes away does suffering find its true answer.

I would give this book to a sufferer precisely because it offers no easy answers. It refuses to mitigate or explain away. Ultimately, says Tchividjian, those experiencing pain don’t want God and a detailed explanation. If God Himself is not enough, then no explanation, rationalization, or result could even begin to make the experience worthwhile. He’s all we need—even in divorce, death, pain, and loss.

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Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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