The first week of the True Woman Summer Book Club is here! Thank you for joining us! I hope you’ve been able to get your copy of the book Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot. But if not, it’s not too late! You can get a copy this month for your gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. And if you need additional copies for your group, head over to our store today to order them. Then pull up some chairs with your girlfriends, and get ready to discuss this never-before-published book from a wise voice of the past.
As a reminder, here’s what you can expect each week:
- A memory verse to write the week’s teaching on your heart.
- A brief devotional thought from me on this week’s chapter.
- Discussion questions for the week’s reading to use with your group—and a PDF version so you can print them out!
- Links to the resources and people Elisabeth references. (If you’re a podcast junkie like me, think of them as your weekly “show notes.”)
- A giveaway of a book! Different ones every week!
- And possibly some surprises . . .
Our book club happens every Tuesday, right here on the True Woman blog, until July 23. Read a chapter a week to keep up!
This week we’re talking about Chapter 1: The Terrible Truth.
Memory Verse: Isaiah 43:2–3
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
As I was reflecting on this verse and on this chapter, my thoughts were tossed to and fro, from one face to another of people in my life who have suffered much. I thought of a dear friend who suffers from Lyme disease. I lifted up a prayer for some missionaries who have been forced to leave the field where they’ve served. I thought of several people in my life who are battling cancer and one dear woman in particular who is coming to the end of her race.
Some of the faces on my heart are lined with hardship from old pain, others are stained with tears from new hardships. Some of their suffering is obvious—a brace on the foot, a special needs child, the effects of a degenerative disease. But others can be more hidden—depression, financial issues, longing for a child or a spouse, past trauma. Like Elisabeth Elliot said in this week’s chapter, suffering can “cover the whole gamut from when the washing machine overflows or when the roast burns . . . to [when] your husband has cancer . . . or when you, yourself, have just lost everything” (p. 8).
As human beings in this fallen world, the waters we pass through are often deep, and it can be difficult at times to believe that they will not overwhelm us. In those moments, we’re faced with the “terrible truth” in our chapter: suffering exists and it is never for nothing, but sometimes it’s hard to see God’s hand and purpose in it.
Nothing God purposes or allows fails in achieving His larger purpose. If we’ve read the Scriptures, we know this truth internally, but the difficult fact remains that we may not know why God allows our particular suffering. His providence is sometimes mysterious and hidden from us. And because of this, we are frequently left asking, “Why?”
Elisabeth points us to three handholds to help us with this question:
- The gospel: “God’s love . . . demonstrated to us in His giving His Son Jesus to die on the cross, has been brought together in harmony with suffering . . . And we will never understand suffering unless we understand the love of God” (pp. 13–14).
- God’s providence: “God is God,” and “He has a lot up His sleeve that you and I haven’t the slightest idea about now” (pp. 15–16).
- Coming glory: “The universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and enter upon the liberty and splendor of the children of God” (p. 16).
These truths are key to remember, whether we’re facing suffering ourselves or ministering to suffering loved ones. As we remember that suffering is never for nothing, we can be confident of this: no matter what kind of suffering threatens to capsize us or what questions loom forebodingly on the horizon, the promises of God are the sure anchor of hope for our souls (Heb. 6:17–20) and His presence is the secure harbor where we can find joy and safety (Ps. 16:11; 91:1–2).
- Were you already familiar with Elisabeth Elliot before this book club? If so, when were you first introduced to her, and what impact has she had on you?
- In the opening paragraph, Elisabeth wrote, “I prayed silently, Lord, let not the waters overflow. And He heard me and He answered me” (p. 1). Have you ever spoken a prayer of desperation like this? How did God answer?
- “The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering” (p. 9). What has God taught you through suffering?
- Who have you known that makes you feel like you’re “in kindergarten” in the school of suffering (p. 2)? What do you admire about how they respond to their circumstances?
- Elisabeth told us a terrible truth in this chapter: the fact “that suffering is not for nothing” and has “an eternal and perfectly loving purpose behind it . . . [is] not obvious” (p. 7). What is your reaction to this idea—that God’s providence is often hidden behind our suffering? How have you seen this in your own life?
- What truths (terrible or otherwise) from Scripture help you to stand fast and find hope in your suffering?
(Download a PDF of these questions here!)
Resources for This Chapter:
- Jim Elliot
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
- John and Betty Stam
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- St. Paul” by F.W.H. Myers
- Joni Eareckson Tada
- Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge
- Charles Lindbergh, Jr.
- “We Rest on Thee” by Edith G. Cherry
This week’s giveaway is a copy of The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis’s classic work on suffering that Elisabeth Elliot quotes in chapters 1 and 2. Check out this quote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” That’s part of what we’ll be talking about next week—how God shows Himself in our suffering. For your chance to win, enter the giveaway and answer this question in the comments below: what deep lessons has God taught you through suffering?