Suffering: Insights from Paul David Tripp

Everyone goes through a period of suffering. When suffering hits we need to remember that God cares for us, and He sees us in our suffering.
March 21, 2023

It comes in different shapes and sizes. It can happen in the blink of an eye, or it may last for years. It can have a devastating effect, but it can also produce good, depending on your response to it. No one really goes looking for it, but it is all around us.

Have you guessed what “it” is?  It is suffering. In a fallen world, we see it all around us. Abuse. Bodily illness and disease. Character assassination. Divorce. And we could go through the rest of the alphabet listing ways suffering touches our lives. Sometimes it comes in an instant – a physical assault one night. The physical injuries may heal, but the emotional suffering lasts much longer. At other times, suffering may take a while to build before unleashing its mighty cruel punch. You haven’t felt great for some time, but you didn’t expect the doctor to say “cancer.”  

When suffering hits, and it will impact your life at some point, we need to remember that God cares for us, and He sees us in our suffering. Often we want to ask, “Where is God?  Why did He allow this to happen?  If God cares for me, why didn’t He do something to change my situation?”  Using solid biblical principles, Paul David Tripp gives encouraging advice in his book Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. Below are several thoughts and ideas from chapter one of his book.

  • Although you might be tempted to doubt God’s goodness, wisdom, and love in your hardships. You must preach the presence of God to yourself. Run to Him.
  • Suffering exposes what you have been trusting in. Is my hope in me, my physical abilities, my finances?  Trust in the One True God, your Creator.
  • “Physical suffering exposed the delusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency” (pg. 20). We are small/dependent; our life is in hands of another.
  • Suffering is real, tangible, and personal in a broken world. There is lots of suffering in the world, but the Bible doesn’t condemn the sufferer (pg. 23-24).
  • Suffering is a means to real hope, comfort, direction, and protection.

Paul David Tripp goes on to outline several “traps” to watch out for when you are suffering. There are the traps of fear, envy, doubt, denial, and discouragement. You begin to fear the same thing happening again, or you will never get better. But for followers of Jesus, suffering is temporary and not eternal. The enemy will try to get you to doubt the character of God, but don’t believe his lies. Don’t let your circumstances redefine your view of God. Allow God to bring hope to your situation. Paul David Tripp says, “It is discouraging to be confused about what God is doing and why he is doing it.” We may not know the reasons, but we can be encouraged that God does love us with steadfast love. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

While there are “traps” to avoid, there are also great “comforts” to be embraced. Tripp says that we can take comfort in God’s grace, presence, sovereignty, purpose, and people. May these thoughts from the final chapter of his book give you comfort and hope as you experience suffering in this world.

  • Suffering is not ultimate; God is!  Suffering isn’t eternal, and it doesn’t last forever. It isn’t the lord of your life.
  • Difficulty doesn’t control your fate and final outcome. God does!  Suffering may affect your future, but it doesn’t control or determine your future. Help and hope are in the hands of God.
  • Hardship doesn’t define you; God does!  “No hardship in this fallen world has the power to define you or determine your potential.”
  • What will truly satisfy and give rest to your heart cannot be taken away. God is yours and cannot be taken away. People, possessions, success, and physical health can all be lost, but not God. “To be in him and he in you is infinitely better than having an easy, predictable, trouble-free life.”

So, while we may not be looking for trouble, difficulty, and suffering, don’t be overwhelmed when they knock on your door. The God, who is eternal, creator, sovereign, good, loving, and faithful, is greater than these. Focus your attention on Him and allow Him to give you hope in your suffering.