Title: Suffering is Never for Nothing
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Major Themes: Faith, Suffering, Christian Living
Synopsis: Over the course of six succinct chapters, Elisabeth Elliot shares an in-depth study of God’s purpose for suffering and how we should react to it.
I’ve grown to appreciate audiobooks more and more as the years have gone by. If I hadn’t been able to listen to Suffering is Never for Nothing, I doubt I would have made my way through it the first time. This isn’t the kind of book you pick up as a pleasure read. It’s deep, insightful, and thought-provoking, and it takes a good amount of time to absorb and ponder. I’ve listened to the whole thing, but feel like I’ve only skimmed the top of the content Mrs. Elliot had to share with us. She’s a wise woman, and though she claimed several times throughout the book that she doesn’t think she understands suffering, she does understand enough to be able to pass truths on to us.
This book is based on a series of six messages Mrs. Elliot shared at a lady’s retreat years ago. It was published after her death and remains as a memento to a woman whose life was poured out for the Lord, even in the most trying circumstances. She starts with examples of what suffering looks like—from the most mundane inconveniences up to the worst suffering you can imagine, such as the injustices done to children, watching a loved one get sick and slowly die, or persecuted Christians stuck in prison most of their lives. Where is God in all of this? we wonder, and she tries to encourage us to look above and beyond—to the One who is above all things, even the most difficult and painful things. She brings stories in from her own life—from before she met Jim Elliot right through to her subsequent second and third marriages and her daughter and grandchildren being born. Each example is succinct, and purposeful, to drive her points home. I appreciate one of the opening passages in the book:
“ . . . I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons. And if we’ll trust Him for it, we can come through to the unshakeable assurance that He’s in charge, He has a loving purpose, and He can transform something terrible into something wonderful. Suffering is never for nothing.”
That’s the main point of this book. Over the series of six chapters, she expands on these ideas to bring us back to the solid truth of Christ.
There was so much in this book, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I don’t know if I would have picked it up at all (who wants to read a book about suffering, after all?), except that one of my aunts, who knows something of suffering herself, recommended the title years ago. I’m so glad she did. It’s one thing to be theoretical about suffering—it’s a completely different animal when you’re going through difficulty. I think of a friend I was communicating with just this morning who is waiting for a definite cancer diagnosis for her son. Two weeks ago, as far as she knew, he was a happy, healthy boy, and the abnormality she was seeing in him was just a simple gastric problem that wouldn’t take much to correct. Where is God? What is He doing? We don’t know the end of the story yet, but as Mrs. Elliot so deftly communicates, He is with us. He has a plan, and it’s for our good and His glory.
I recommend Suffering is Never for Nothing to every Christian, regardless of whether you’re going through a tough time right now or not. It encouraged and strengthened my faith, and I’m sure it will do the same for you.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults