Resources relating to the pain, and incomprehensibility, of Christian Suffering

Pilgrim’s Progress

Faith and Suffering (Mental Illness)

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

The Ultimate Purpose of God as the Outcome of Suffering

Reformation Doctrine

Divine Incomprehensibility

If God, Why Suffering

Lord, Let Me Get Home Before Dark

Surprised by Suffering

Shattered Dreams

Pilgrim’s Progress

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan (pdf), is available at the below URL in a reader friendly format, which can be downloaded and saved, and / or printed:

And here is a free, online dramatized audio reading of Pilgrim’s Progress:

Although he is less familiar to us in the 21st Century, he was renown for most of the past 400 years.  Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into 200 languages, has never been out of print, and was for a time the most printed book except for the Bible.   Some useful background on John Bunyan is below:

Below is a quote from the opening of the above linked site:

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said 

“Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied the Bible; he had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture and…he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress — that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.”

And, below, again from the above site (  regarding the remarkable God-given ability that an uneducated (just a tinker–i.e. a pot maker) Bunyan possessed:

Bunyan says he was silenced and shamed by this reproof and soon after “I beetook me to my Bible.” By God’s grace in conversion and providence, the tinker would come to write what has been described as the finest piece of writing in the English language — his description in Pilgrim’s Progress of Christian’s crossing the river of death into the city of the great King. Robert Browning put it this way: “His language was not ours: ‘Tis my belief, God spake: No tinker has such powers.”

A succinct, inspiring biography of Bunyan’s life is available online.

Another, much shorter, bio with representative Bunyan quotes is available here.

Another, much longer, collection of essays on the impact of Bunyan is here.

A museum of Bunyan’s artifacts is in Bedford, Bedfordeshire, England.  It’s holdings include Bunyan’s tinkers anvil, and the little jug that was used by his blind daughter to bring him soup for his evening meal each day, while he was imprisoned (a total of 12 years) for preaching without a license to preach (from the established Church of England).

 Faith and Suffering / Mental Illness

The arrival of Job’s three friends can be considered an example of the worse possible counseling session in the history of time.  Never once do the three friends pray for Job, console him, comfort him, encourage him.  They are out to answer Job’s “why questions” (Chapter 3) and ‘fix him.’

The practical challenge of trying to help fellow Christian brothers who are in a ‘bad patch’ mentally is addressed in an essay by Michael Horton.  A pdf of that essay, taken from the journal Modern Reformation, is available here.


Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

When life doesn’t ‘go our way,’ including circumstances much much worse than the mere pains and inconveniences of everyday life, we naturally ask, “Where’s God?”  If God is all knowing (Omniscient, and He is), All these questions, and leanings, are universal.  These have led some to write of “the silence of God,” because lightning bolt answers (and fixes) do not seem to spring down upon us as and when we think they should.  What about all this?

The Book of Job, which is the focus of this entire website, is God’s Biblical answer.  In addition, wise Christian writers have over the years sought to encourage us all by cohering Scripture for our understanding.

  • CS Lewis wrote a now classic book  The Problem of Pain, available as a free pdf here.
  • RC Sproul has written Surprised by Suffering, the Role of Pain and Death in the Christian Life, now available as a free pdf here.
  • John Piper has written a book directly on this tension between our suffering and God’s Sovereignty, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, also available free as a pdf, here.
  • There is a related  lecture by John Piper of “Where is God?,” available here.


The Ultimate Purpose of God as the Outcome of Suffering

Suffering, under God’s hand, has an ultimate purpose, namely to bring full glory to the Cross and the finished work of Jesus Christ, accomplishing our Redemption by the only means possible, Grace by Substitution.  John Piper has written a brief essay to this point, available here.


 Reformation Doctrine

An introductory summary of the doctrine of the Reformation is given at the link below.  This essay is based upon the writing of James M. Boice–“Reformed Theology”–and Curt Daniels’ booklet “Biblical Calvinism.” Dr. Boice was the long-time senior teaching minister (1968-2000) at the historic 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia:


“Divine Incomprehensibility”

RC Sproul has written a brief but important essay on this subject in the August 2014 issue of Tabletalk (p. 4), available here.

In it he notes :  “God reveals Himself, without revealing everything there is to know about Him.”  This is the essence of our Big Theme #1.  Reference to this Sproul essay is made in Week #15, Chart #11.


 “If God, Why Suffering?”

Above titled essay is a blog posting by Vince Vitale, on Ravi Zacherias Ministries website (

In this posting, available here, Vitale presents seven perspectives to aid our grasping the meaning of suffering, in our context of a Loving, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Faithful God.

 “Lord, Let Me Get Home Before Dark”

This is a poem of Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia International University.  He is perhaps most well-known for having resigned that presidency, a job he loved, to spend many years caring for his wife of many years, Muriel, who became incapacitated because of Alzheimer’s Disease.  It became a very humbling calling for Robertson as Muriel quickly lost all ability to recognize her own faithful husband.  But God taught him much through that experience.  He has since given numerous talks on what Muriel taught him about love during those difficult, final years.  He is also the author of a related book on the experience:  A Promise Kept.

But most relevant to our discussion here, is the poem he wrote, available here seeking God’s helping hand particularly when end-of-life dark days come, as they will for most of us, as we seek to be faithful to the end of our days.

 “Surprised by Suffering” by Dr. R.C. Sproul

[pending upload of key points from the book]

“Shattered Dreams” by Dr. Larry Crabb

[pending upload of key points from the book]


Joni Eareckson Tada, Leaning in our need…

Joni is very well known for her life in adversity, blessing many with her encouragement. Below is pasted a posting specific to suffering and our context of Job from the website


Posted on October 1, 2014, on MTL (More to Life)

by Joni Eareckson Tada
Honesty is always the best policy, especially when you’re in a crowded restroom at a Christian women’s conference.  As I was refreshing my lipstick at the mirror, a woman standing next to me said, “Oh, Joni, you always look so happy in your wheelchair.  I wish I had your joy!”  Several others in the restroom agreed.  “How do you do it?” she asked.
I glanced at the women around me, all sharply dressed.  I knew the break-time would soon be over, so how could I honestly answer her question in sixty seconds?  How could I sum up what has taken more than four decades of quadriplegia to learn?
Most people assume I am a strong person.  They read the Joni book years ago and remember that I was always on-the-go before the 1967 diving accident in which I became a quadriplegic.  They remember that I was athletic and disciplined, so naturally they take for granted I am the same way now:  The girl’s got true grit.  If anybody can handle 47 years in a wheelchair, Joni sure can!
The truth is, I am not strong.  I’m a coward.  Really, I am.  I look at my future of life-as-an-aging-quadriplegic and my chest gets tight from panic.  My wheelchair has never been smooth-sailing, and now that I am 65, it’s not getting easier.  I struggle when it comes to trusting God.  At night when I lie in bed and wrestle against the pain of deteriorating cervical discs, I feel so weak and weary.  So when I’m up and about in my wheelchair, is my smile made out of Colgate?  Is my joy all a put-on?  Is my peace plastic or my contentment a cover-up?
The conference was about to start again, but several women lingered—they were the ones who really wanted to know how I do it every day.  I said, “I don’t do it.”  That raised eyebrows.  “In fact, may I tell you honestly how I woke up this morning?”
“After Ken leaves for work at 6:00 a.m., I’m alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 a.m.  It’s a friend coming to get me up.  While I hear her making coffee, I often pray, ‘Oh Lord, my friend is about to give me a bed bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, put on my make-up and send me out the door.  And I’m so tired.  I don’t have strength to face this routine one more time.  I don’t have strength to face the day.  I have no resources.  I don’t have a smile to take into the day.  But you do.  May I borrow your smile?  I urgently need you, God.  I can’t do quadriplegia today, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”
I could tell these women appreciated my confession about my weakness.  I could tell they were carrying burdens, too.  They were weary and tired of their own limitations.  Maybe they were even tired of living.  One girl said, “So, what happens when your friend comes through the bedroom door?”
“A miracle happens.  When she opens my bedroom door, I turn my head on the pillow and give her a smile sent straight from heaven.  It’s not mine.  It’s my Savior’s.  He’s got a great smile!  Whatever joy you see today —” I gestured to my paralyzed legs “— was hard won.  It was hard-fought-for this morning.”
That is the only way to live.  It’s the Christian way to live.  Most of those women would go home that evening to broken garbage disposals, haranguing teenagers, swollen ankles and laundry to fold.  God willing, they will not try to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and grin and bear it in their own strength.  Lord willing, they will remember to go to God for grace.  I have learned—as I hope these women learn—that the weaker we are, the harder we must lean on God; and the harder we lean on Him, the stronger we discover Him to be.
I believe the truly handicapped ones are those who, when their alarm clock goes off in the morning, throw back the covers, jump out of bed, scarf down breakfast, give God a speedy quiet time, and then rush out the door on automatic cruise control.  If you live that way, God resists you.  James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud” (NKJV).
Who are the proud?  People who don’t think they need God.  Believers who pretty much have “following Christ” figured out, and so live life on their own steam.  The proud are not the “poor in spirit” of whom Jesus speaks in the Beatitudes; the proud are those who neglect to come to God in empty-handed spiritual poverty every day.
But take heart!  For although pride and self-sufficiency may hinder grace, James 4:6 also says, “but [God] gives grace to the humble” (NKJV).  Who are the humble?  They are people who urgently need the Lord.  The humble come to Him in empty-handed spiritual need, feeding on His grace in their hearts.  It’s what happens to me every morning.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10-11).
When we are weak, He is strong.  It’s something I’ve learned in my wheelchair—and I hope my chair reminds you to find a heaven-sent smile tomorrow morning at the foot of God’s throne.  For nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Neither height nor depth, sword nor famine, quadriplegia, marriage problems, nor bankruptcy.  “For all things are yours… for you are of Christ and Christ is of God” (1 Corinthians 3:21).  And remember, there’s no smile quite like the Savior’s.
Joni Eareckson Tada is an international disability advocate.  A diving accident in 1967 left Joni Eareckson, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.  She and her husband Ken were married in 1982 and reside in Calabasas, California.  Learn more about Joni’s ministry at