David Powlison’s God’s Grace in your Suffering focuses on the heart of suffering through the lens of the hymn How Firm a Foundation. Powlison invites the reader to bless the Lord in times of suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 puts words around it: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” While other books rightly address the topic of suffering in-depth, Powlison provides a wonderful contribution to the field by offering a short, easy-to-read, insightful, and memorable book. In Powlison’s words, “Suffering is both the acid test and the catalyst. It reveals and forms faith (loc.136 of 1953). While this is not an exhaustive work on suffering; it is an encouraging book that I would offer to a suffering friend.
I would recommend this book to counselors and suffering friends for at least five reasons.
First, Powlison knows that your suffering is significant. Powlison’s primary focus of source material is from the anonymous hymn How Firm a Foundation which is heavily rooted in the Psalms and other parts of scripture. Powlison helps us see through story, song and scripture that “Jesus Christ comforts us in “all our afflictions” (2 Cor. 1:4). There are various types of suffering and Powlison leaves room for all of them. In chapter one, Powlison helps the reader get personal by asking several question such as “Where do you need help, wisdom, courage, mercy, protection and strength?” And then shows how you “are invited to bring your need, your troubles, your afflictions, your loneliness into the heart of God’s grace and deliverance” (loc. 181). Your suffering is significant, and Powlison knows that.
Second, Powlison writes from experience, which makes the book encouraging. In other words, he is offering counsel from the places where the Lord has comforted him. We get glimpses of his story at the end of most chapters. Powlison sings How Firm a Foundation as a fellow sufferer.
Third, Powlison reminds us of the importance of listening well and walking in community. People are not meant to walk alone in suffering. Christ is near to the brokenhearted. We have his word, and we have the body of Christ. “Scripture never commends isolation as a strategy” Powlison says (loc.538). While people’s response (or lack of response) to our suffering is often painful, Powlison commented, “None of your friends is perfect! But God puts imperfect people in our lives who are also wise, caring, and trustworthy—the kind of person you want to be for others” (loc. 492). We are not alone on this journey.
Fourth, Powlison includes the helpful reminder that God is with us. And he is with us for a purpose. He means to transform us and make us more like his son. These chapters left a deeply impact on me and were by far my favorite part of the whole book. Powlison said, “You are not alone, not abandoned, not ignored, no matter what is happening” (loc. 580). It is so comforting to remember God is with me.
Fifth, Powlison reminds us that Christ’s work in our lives is lifelong. God will love us to the end of our lives. He will not fail us. I loved this part because it spoke to every age bracket. Ultimately Christ will give us Himself.
If you are suffering or have a friend who is God’s Grace in your Suffering is an excellent little resource. Powlison writes to help us put our hope in God. And God is with us through it all.
God’s Grace in your Suffering. By David Powlison. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018, 128pp., $10.79 paper.
*I received a copy of this book from Crossway.