Theology, Writing & Publishing

When hope is hard to find

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It’s a little uncomfortable when friends ask you in front of people you don’t know how your new book is coming along, when the topic is suffering. What kind of person writes about that? It’s not the kind of thing you want to broadcast if you’re just being social at a party (not that I’m one for attending many of those).

But I suppose one of the good things about a topic like this is that it spans across all religious, political, and cultural persuasions. Everyone has pain in this life. Everyone has something they are working through. Though my book takes a Christian approach to the subject, I’ve incorporated a few other viewpoints on finding meaning in pain, for the sake of contrast.

I’ve already heard good things from a few people who read advanced copies, and then discovered this on Amazon:

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#35 in Amazon’s top 100 books on Christian Death and Grief Counseling (this isn’t a counseling book, so I’m a little confused how it wound up there, but still!). Less than an hour after this screenshot was taken, the numbers changed again, but that’s Amazon for you.

I’d hardly done any marketing at that point, but word of mouth on social media sort of took care of that for me. I’d asked friends to share the pre-order link, which more people I didn’t even know started sharing — proving my theory correct that suffering is indeed a universal subject.

I think this concept of redemptive suffering is one that a lot of people need right now, as the media assaults us constantly with bad news. People everywhere are disturbed, unsettled. Sometimes that’s necessary. But other times, when the solutions are beyond our control, we find ourselves spiraling down a rabbit hole of grief in which there is no easy way out.

While there are some who find the idea of redemptive suffering offensive, I think it’s human nature to still want our pain to mean something. For many of us, our less than ideal circumstances might be easier to navigate if we could guarantee some kind of reward at the end. In many cases, that hope is real and possible: the laboring woman will soon have a baby. The weakened cancer patient going through chemotherapy will soon have remission. But when the hope is not tangible, or even guaranteed, what then can we do?

There is always complaining. And complaining is not wrong. But I need more than that — I need something I can hold, even if it’s a prayer, a thought, or a relevant Bible verse. It’s still something that holds weight.

I’ve been asked by some of my followers why I follow a God who allows bad things to happen in the first place. What a question! I can’t even begin to answer it in a sentence or two, and I certainly don’t attempt to in the book.

The best I can offer is that we live in a world (a fallen world, if you subscribe to the Christian faith) that operates by the rules of nature, in which bad things happen to both the righteous and the not-so-righteous. Suffering is simply a given fact of this life, and I’d rather have a faith that promises to redeem it than a twisted version which promises a false safety and protection if I follow the “rules.”

If the idea of redemptive suffering appeals to you, I encourage you to give my next book a try — maybe it will renew your hope. And if the idea of redemptive suffering repulses you, I encourage you to read my book anyway. Be open to new ideas. Be willing to be challenged. You can pre-order it here. Releasing September 25th.

Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

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