Book Review | Joy in the Sorrow

Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (And Its Pastor) Learn to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler is an incredibly valuable resource for a believer who desires to suffer well and to serve those who suffer in a way that points to Jesus. I learned a lot from reading this book and hearing the different testimonies of God’s grace through suffering. These people have walked through things that are just crushing and come out on the other side trusting the Lord and knowing that there was a purpose in their pain. This book evokes a variety of emotions, but the major takeaway was encouragement. Everyone is going to walk through the valley of suffering. And likely several times. I’m grateful for this book and the way it points the suffering believer to Jesus.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.  (Horatio G. Spafford, 1873) Location: 5
  • In the Scriptures, there is suffering in almost every hero story. Joseph is sold into slavery, falsely accused, and forgotten in prison. Hagar is used as a commodity, has a child by Abraham, her master, and is then thrown out on her own. Moses roams the desert with grumbling complainers (church folk weren’t much different back then) for 40 years only to not enter the promised land. Jeremiah is obedient to say the things the Lord commands him to and go to the places God sends him to, yet is beaten and left naked in a ditch. David spends years surrounded by enemies, not to mention suffering the gut-wrenching pain of his home life that dominated his later years. David, of course, is sinner as well as sinned against, as he summons Bathsheba to come to his palace and pressures her to commit adultery with him (in fact, if you look closely at what happened, it should be seen as rape). Paul is shipwrecked twice, beaten with rods and stones, suffers incessantly from what he calls his “thorn” (2 Corinthians 12 v 7), and is ridiculed incessantly. And at the center of our faith is a suffering Servant, a rejected Savior, a crucified King! Location: 84
  • The 20th-century theologian A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” Location: 108
  • It’s the idea that for us to bear fruit in our lives, we will probably need the plow. We need something to wake us up, to stir us up, to make us rely more on the Lord and look more like Jesus. And so when we walk into a trial, we can know “joy” there. There can be smiles in the tears. Location: 112
  • My heart is always to let the Bible define reality for us, rather than having to take reality and manipulate it to make it something that it’s just not. It doesn’t make any sense to try to hide suffering and brokenness, when it’s clearly a part of life in this world; and when it’s clearly a part of the gospel that Jesus is with us in the mess, in the storms, and in the pain. Location: 159
  • If you’re not real about the reality of sorrow, you end up creating guilt and shame in people around suffering. Location: 163
  • It is by suffering that God has most nearly approached to man; it is by suffering that man draws most nearly to God. (Rom a statue at Stanford’s Memorial Chapel)  Location: 255
  • The things we learn in the divine Refiner’s fire can’t be learned anywhere else. We need the pressure of the Potter’s hand. We need the severe mercy of the pruning shears. Whatever God has ordained for us today is for our good: not only the things that are fun and comfortable, but the fire as well. For only when the gold has been purified can it reflect the Refiner’s face. Location: 264
  • Real hope is not a guarantee of certain outcomes in this life, but rather the assurance that the One who is perfectly wise and perfectly good holds the outcomes in his almighty hand. Location: 270
  • At this point, you have a choice. You can keep staring at the spot where your treasure sank, or you can watch the ripples to see what God is doing. Because God is always doing something beautiful. And he wants you to see it. Location: 292
  • We have to recognize that the good he promises may be the suffering or trial or persecution that he knows we need to be conformed to the image of his Son, and that is our greatest possible good. Location: 312
  • When we suffer, we have a choice: turn our focus inward and be consumed with self-pity and bitterness or lift our eyes and watch the Redeemer make all things new. Location: 353
  • Take this for your journey: in each overwhelming moment, Christ has already paid your passage. There is not a single moment in this life that need crush you. Given the work of Jesus, given the certain hope of eternity with him, even death itself has lost its ultimate sting. This is truth. This is hope. Location: 563
  • Our hope is not hung upon a star or a desperate prayer released into the stratosphere. Our hope is rooted in a kingdom already established through the death and resurrection of Jesus: … a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1 v 3-7) Location: 576
  • The pastor John Piper once wrote that he “loves the ready tears of strong men.” Location: 701
  • That is a bitter pill to swallow if your perspective does not align with Paul’s in 2 Corinthians, where he says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4 v 17). Location: 720
  • A pastor named Dave Zuleger once observed this about suffering: Suffering is one of the great instruments in God’s hands to continue to reveal to us our dependence on him and our hope in him. God is good to give us the greatest gift he can give us, which is more of himself, and he’s good however he chooses to deliver that gift. ( Location: 776
  • We have a good life. We have tremendous friends, enjoy our work, and delight in our children. And yet, the most profound encounter we have ever had with the Lord came as a result of suffering. This thing I was desperate to escape was also my gateway to irrefutable joy. Location: 824
  • The pastor and author Timothy Keller writes that… troubled times awaken [people] out of their haunted sleep of spiritual self-sufficiency into a serious search for the divine. … It is an exaggeration to say that no one finds God unless suffering comes into their lives—but it is not a big one. (Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, page 5) Location: 843
  • Satan, the enemy of Christ and Christ’s people and all that is good, loves the evil, sin, and general brokenness in our world that causes our suffering, and even more so when it might tear us from fellowship with Jesus Christ. But even as he purposes how to turn our hearts from God within heartbreaking circumstances, we can say what Joseph told his brothers, who had disowned and enslaved him: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50 v 20). Location: 853
  • C.S. Lewis said: We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Location: 1,588
  • The nineteenth-century pastor C.H. Spurgeon said, “I kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Location: 1,593
  • In love, God let me feel the discomfort of my limited and (in some ways) incorrect understanding of him. While he did not lift me out of that wrestle immediately, he also didn’t leave me to it forever. Psalm 145 promises that “the Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (v 14), that he is “righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works,” and that God is “near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (v 18). Location: 1,730
  • Death is devastating. That’s because as those made in God’s image, with and for his glory, we were never meant to die. We were never meant to witness or experience the horror and indignity of death. It is an enemy—the result of our rebellion. And its power will be undone when Jesus comes again. Location: 1,751
  • Indeed, Jesus has taken up our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53 v 4). And for Jesus to carry our sorrows means that he has touched them. He is acquainted with all that has caused us pain, sadness, fear, and shame. In the same way that he extended his hand to the leper and said in word and deed, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matthew 8 v 3), he puts his hands on our hurt and administers not only compassion but also the power to heal, redeem, and restore. Location: 1,853
  • We all have a preferred future. Hopes of what life will look like years from now. A story that we’ve written about how things could and should be for our lives. A story noticeably free of waiting, tears and scars. Location: 1,901
  • And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. Location: 2,634

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