- Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Christian Struggle with Suffering, Grief, and Hope, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020). In print or ebook from the publisher or from another retailer: Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Christianbook.com • Cokesbury • The Thoughtful Christian. Audiobook available from Audible • ChristianAudio.
We all endure suffering in this life. No matter how blessed and privileged we may be, we will experience hardship and grief. It may be the death of a loved one, sudden illness, the loss of a job, or the struggle with mental health. It is part of living in a world that God created but humanity unmade.
As Christians, we are assured that Jesus has saved us from our sin and so, some profess, we should “boast in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3). Such a reading of the New Testament has led many Christians to believe that all suffering we experience is sent from God. Yet is all suffering part of God’s purpose for us? Should we really “boast” in the suffering and grief that follows when a child dies from illness? Does God bring about the hurricanes, mudslides, and earthquakes that takes the lives of hundreds of thousands?
What started over twenty years ago as an academic study became personal when our son Mack died unexpectedly of a blood infection on New Year’s Eve 2012. In this work, bringing together scholarship and experience, I consider what the Bible has to say about suffering and grace while reflecting upon my own loss and grief. What is revealed is that rather than an image of God managing every event and action in our lives, the biblical account describes the very real world in which we all live, a world full of hardship and calamity that often comes unbidden and unmerited. Yet it is also a world into which God lovingly intrudes, to bring comfort, peace, and grace. As importantly, the Bible also provides license to lament, to grieve, and to protest the injustice we experience.