I just finished reading When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, written by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. I have read snippets of Joni's writing over the years, but never actually read a full book by her. Now I'm wishing I had started reading her writing earlier in my Christian life! A reader commented a while ago asking what books I recommend on suffering. I've read a few over the last couple of years, but I would have to say that this one might be the one that has helped me the most. It's a solid biblical response to suffering coupled with a tender care for the reader. If anyone knows and understands suffering, it's Joni Eareckson Tada. What she writes is born out of the often bitter school of suffering, but the glorious truths that she has learned shine forth so evidently in this book. She and Estes strike the right balance of rock solid theological truths about God and compassionate care for the sufferer. As I read I felt like they knew my heartache and were inviting me into their living room to learn from all that God has taught them in their pain. They understand what you are going through, and they want to help you see God for who he is even through tear-filled eyes.
The book is divided into three sections: "Who is This God?", "What is He Up To?", and "How Can I Hang On?". They helpfully begin by unpacking God's role in suffering, his purpose in suffering, and even his pain in suffering. I was struck by the reminder that God not only is completely sovereign over every detail of my life, but that he also is with me in my suffering, bearing my burden, and has himself faced pain and heartache in order to bring me to himself. He is a God who is in the details. After giving us God in all his glory they move into the purpose of our suffering and the hope we have in the midst of it. In the chapter titled "Gaining Contentment" they lead us through our hope in Christ and our means of contentment--a resolute trust in God's perfect plan and in finding our hope only in him. Contentment is not merely about will-power, but about trusting in the sufficiency of Christ to meet all our needs. He is a Savior who suffered, knows our pain, and promises only good for us.
Very rarely does a book move me so much that I can both hardly put it down and be on the verge of tears all at the same time. There were many occasions where I wanted to scream "Yes!" at the top of my lungs because I was so moved by God's complete sovereignty and abundant care for us. It is a Christ-centered, biblically rich book that moved me and gave me great hope in our gracious God. It's not too heavy for someone in the midst of suffering, but it's rich enough to provide the only resource that will bring any encouragement to a weary soul. They helpfully point to the God who is there, always caring, always working, and always loving through every pain and sorrow we bear.
If you are in the midst of suffering, I encourage you to get this book and work through it. You will not be disappointed. If you know someone who is suffering, buy the book, read it first, and then give it to your friend. They will be greatly encouraged both by your care for them and your interest in their life.