Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Between Pain and Grace by Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer

The authors have provided a biblical theology of suffering for pastors, ministry leaders, counselors, and others in church leadership. It is aimed at understanding our suffering based on biblical texts. It centers on what the Bible says about suffering well and helping others in their suffering.

There are some thought provoking issues in this book. The one that struck me with the most force is our lack of lament. There is no place for lament in our church services, even though a good percentage of those in the pews are suffering. The authors draw attention to "our dis-ease with engaging suffering in corporate worship." Expressions of pain and suffering are not welcome in church. We wear facades instead. This section of the book made me wonder how the church can engage misery and give voice to those suffering.

Another issue is the suffering of God. The authors investigate that concept and how an understanding of the suffering of God helps those who have known pain. I found their discussion of fear was interesting too, especially whether it is always a sin. We are reminded of Jesus' experience of fear in the garden. There is also a discussion of the role of anger and how it can be redemptive. An exploration of forgiveness is included too.

An insightful topic for me was the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is external and objective. It is a thing. Suffering is internal and subjective. It is an experience. Their discussion about the relationship of suffering to desires, goals, and sin was very enlightening.

This is a good book for pastors, counselors, and others who want to help people live through suffering with grace, maturity, patience, insight, and proper action. The authors have included great chapters on the dysfunctional family, sexual abuse and mental illness. It is rather academic in style (for example, writing about the “relational ecosystem” in Genesis). Lay people may find it a bit too academic. There are questions included at the end of each chapter so the book could be used as a study by a church or counseling staff.

I was raised in a denomination that was rather stoic. This book really helped me understand the necessity of giving voice to suffering. Silencing the voice only intensifies the suffering. I recommend this book to leaders, hoping others will also gain a glimpse of the importance of giving voice to the suffering. It is not a book to give to those in the midst of suffering, however.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gerald W. Peterman is a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute and the director of the Biblical and Theological Studies program at Moody Theological Seminary. He and his wife have two adult daughters.
Andrew J. Schmutzer is Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute.

Moody Press, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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