Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Introducing Paul Mallard's 'Invest Your Suffering'

Why read this book?

When it comes to suffering, I’m rather inexperienced. Don’t get me wrong in twenty-three years of life I haven’t avoided suffering. But I must admit that I have suffered very little. And so, the title of this book is not immediately appealing to me. ‘Invest Your Suffering’? What suffering? Surely this book isn’t written for me!

… So the first chapter of this book was a bit of a shock.

The author, Paul Mallard, describes how he and his wife grew up, met and married. She was from a Christian home, and he joined the church during his school years, where they met. They started dating just before university, and grew to love each other. They got engaged, and were married six months later - and his first girlfriend became his wife. Their marriage was happy and they were involved in Christian ministry.

I find Mallard's account truly alarming. Word for word, his story is my own story. 

And how quickly the story changes.

A number of years into their marriage, Mallard hears the news that will drag his faith through the refining fire of suffering. His beloved wife Edrie is struck by chronic illness.

The author's story starts off so well. But it forces me to ask the question: What is written in the next chapter of my story? Will my story be a tale of chronic illness? Or will it be depression, bereavement, childlessness, imprisonment, or aggressive cancer?

I don’t yet know the details, but I have no doubt that suffering will come.

And so, we must prepare ourselves for suffering. To start off, here are two foundational truths I’ve gleaned from the first three chapters:

The mystery of God

The author examines the book of Job to find answers to suffering. We see Job suffering as a result of natural processes, like sickness and natural disasters. It is revealed that behind these forces stands a personal force of evil, the Devil. But the ultimate cause of Job's suffering is in fact God himself.

This begs the question... Why?

When I ask this question, I feel entitled to an answer. I feel I have the right to understand God's plans and purposes. But God is God, and I am not. God created the world, and he will sustain it as He sees fit. In one sense, this is the end of the conversation.

The revelation of God

However, God does not completely conceal his plans and purposes from us. Praise God! He is not silent - He speaks to us through Scripture. It is because God speaks that we can make any sense of suffering. When I reflect upon the fact that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us… it leaves me in awe of His goodness!

This word of God is proved genuine as it is tested in the lives of His people. Let me leave you with the quote I found most comforting of all:

“No matter what intense experiences of suffering we may go through, God’s promises will always prove to be true. When the promises are thrown into the furnace of affliction, they will shine even more brightly.”

I commend this book to you, because it will lead you to a greater book – God’s own word to us.

About our contributor, Katie is married to Jack, and is currently in her second year of an MTS apprenticeship at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford. She calls herself a ‘casserole Christian’ because she gradually accepted the gospel message she was taught at home and at church. She enjoys hiking, knitting and singing, and is resolutely a cat person even though she is allergic to them.

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