These days, you don’t have to look for long to see who is suffering. If you are still stuck, sit down for the evening news or read a headline in the newspaper. You will be immersed in the suffering of people all over the world. For many of us, suffering has been a part of our story too. Sickness, death, or tragedy through an accident or other means… a broken family, abuse, loss of a job…the list could go on and on. Suffering is an inevitable part of being human.
So in a world where suffering is common, we all could use some relief. In his new book, Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in Suffering, author and pastor Mike Leake (not the baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds 🙂 ) takes on this difficult but important issue. Leake not only looks at human suffering, he also examines possible responses to suffering and the blessing that can come within it.
Leake believes that God will “rip us to shreds if that’s what it takes to replace our idols” and that He uses suffering for our greatest good- often in the most unexpected way. Leake uses the biblical teaching of Hosea as an illustration of God’s love for us. To one degree or another, we all turn from God like Gomer does from Hosea, and we are “called back to the wilderness, our wounds aching and spirits feeble, to love us once again.” We are not called to retrieve our own redemption through anything we do on our own, “Christ did that for us” but “we are all called to cooperate and participate in the process of our daily, incremental redemption.”
In his book, Leake lays out the theology of suffering as follows:
1. God is not evil and does not do evil.
2. God is executing a long term plan to eradicate all evil.
3. God is sovereign, and everything that happens comes from His hand (whether directly or indirectly).
4. As autonomous human beings, we are personally responsible for our own evil acts (that is we cannot evade responsibility for our actions by claiming they were caused by God, Satan, circumstances, our past, our limitations, or other people).
5. God ultimately does all things for His glory.
6. God is ever working all things together for the greatest good of His adopted children.
7. Ultimately, our greatest good is conformity to Christ, which gives us the capacity for an eternal enjoyment of God Himself.
In addition, Leake presents biblical examples of suffering: Job, Joseph and Jesus. He identifies three ways to respond to suffering. We can try to be stoic. If we believe in Stoicism,we live in a fallen world, but it is not up to us to figure out its purpose. In this view of the world, we just push through it. Don’t feel; just try to survive. In Dualism, we look at the suffering coming from the devil only and good from God only. We pray for good prevailing over evil. This provides a shallow faith with little root to withstand trials since it minimizes God’s sovereignty. Finally, Leake presents a Biblical response to suffering. He presents that God will orchestrate His will in all things. However, it does not minimize our suffering; instead, like Job, David or the other Psalmists, we are to call out to God in our suffering. Only when we believe Christ is our greatest good will we be able to suffer well.
If you’re not into concepts like Dualism or Stoicism, don’t let these theological terms throw you off or scare you away. Leake easily and delicately brings his reader along. There is nothing about this book that is judging or condemning to its reader. I really liked the encouragement Leake was able to point his reader to in his biblical teaching. This book leads you down a path of honestly looking at these responses and the blessing of responding biblically. This book really will be a blessing to its reader. Whether you have suffered life events that have been of your own doing, the doing of others, or you just want to read a book on this delicate topic for further growth, I highly recommend Torn to Heal. It is just the right balance of truth and grace. I can say that I left with a much clearer understanding of suffering and Christian responses to it. As fellow sufferer, I know that God’s will is a blessing to those who faithfully follow Christ. I give Torn to Heal five stars of five stars.
God is radically dedicated to our redemption. This is both glorious and terrifying. It is terrifying because we are idolaters. This means that when God brings redemption He also brings a death sentence to our fallen desires. In love, God will do whatever it takes-even ripping us to shreds if necessary-to replace our feeble pleasures with lasting desire for Himself.
Sadly, in our culture two deadly responses to suffering have crept into the Church. These responses, deadly dualism and shallow stoicism, are attempts to hijack God’s good purpose in suffering. Torn to Heal is an invitation to embrace God’s good purpose in suffering, while urging its readers to reject these deadly enemies.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Promise and the Hope (Clink on link to chapter one)
Chapter Two: Torn to Heal
Chapter 3: The Healing Begins
Chapter 4: Causation and Purpose
Chapter 5: Dualism & Stoicism I: Enemies to Suffering Well
Chapter Six: Dualism & Stoicism II: Thieves of Hope and Help
Chapter Seven: Finally Healed
Paperback: 108 pages
Publisher: Cruciform Press (May 1, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.2 inches
About the Author
Mike Leake serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Indiana. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Nikki, have two young children. Mike’s writing home is mikeleake.net.
Note: Cruciform Press provided this book in an e-book format in exchange for an honest review.