Life is full of hardship; however, in his book Surprised by Suffering, Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that the obstacles we overcome are divine vocations designed by God for our ultimate good. Although many Christians view suffering as a stumbling block or a threat from Satan, Sproul argues that suffering is a pathway to redemption. Paraphrasing this idea, 2 Timothy 2:11 says: “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” According to Sproul, the church is called to be the literal body of Christ, suffering with him to be redeemed with him.
Throughout the book, Sproul interprets Scripture and employs thought-provoking examples to illustrate his ideas. In a series of personal anecdotes, he explains that he learned the necessity of trusting Christ when his terminally-ill father taught him how to die. Since then, Sproul has seen suffering in perspective to God’s plan, understanding that the afflictions faced in this world cannot be compared to the blessings of eternity.
Senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s church in Sanford, Florida, he has authored more than seventy books. Sproul is also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and he hosts a daily radio program called Renewing Your Mind.
Using personal experiences and observations as a springboard for biblical interpretation, Sproul testifies to the power of hope amidst hardship – even death. His book is divided into two sections. “Part One: Unto Death” is about understanding the purpose of suffering and persevering in times of trial. “Part Two: After Death” focuses primarily on Heaven’s existence and significance. At the end of the book, Sproul addresses other commonly asked questions about suffering in a brief question and answer section.
Overall, Surprised by Suffering is a book of condolence. As a biblical scholar, Sproul relies heavily on Scripture to develop his ideas, and he uses modern examples to clarify complex concepts. With an appropriate balance of serious stories and humorous commentary, he presents an inspiring interpretation of difficult circumstances, and brings up several issues that would be good for small group discussion. Therefore, I would recommend this book to teens and adults of all ages who would like a better understanding of suffering from a biblical standpoint. – Kara Hackett, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Suffering often seems to catch us by surprise. One day we are healthy, comfortable, and happy. The next we find ourselves ill or injured, struggling, and distraught. The pain that invades our lives may come from our own suffering or that of a loved one. But no matter the source, we didn’t see it coming. All too often, our perplexity prompts us to suspect God of wrongdoing.
In this classic book, republished in a revised and expanded edition, Dr. R. C. Sproul argues that we should not be surprised by suffering; instead, we should expect pain and sorrow in this life. Some are actually called to a “vocation” of suffering, and all of us are called to undergo the ultimate suffering of death. God promises in His Word that difficult times will come upon us, but He also promises that He allows suffering for our good and His glory, and He will never give us more than we can bear with His help.
Dr. Sproul offers solid biblical counsel and comfort for those undergoing suffering and for those who minister to the suffering, counsel that helps believers stand in times of trial with faith in a God who is both loving and good.