Monday, August 09, 2010

God's Healing for Life's Losses - Review

Suffering is a normal and essential part of the process of sanctification (Luke 9:23-24; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5; and see these helpful websites: Xenos and Desiring God). But we Westerners’ tend not to acknowledge, and certainly not embrace, this biblical reality. And as a result, when real suffering does come we usually don’t handle it well. Our tendency is to go to extremes or unhealthy means of trying to deal with it.

Here are a few examples: One very common way we approach suffering is to reject it as abnormal and do everything we can to avoid it; or at the least, do everything possible to ease its pain (even anesthetizing it with medication/drugs, alcohol, etc.) as quickly as we can. Another often used remedy—especially by well meaning believers— is to affectively trivialize suffering by being what we might say “over spiritual” about it. That is, we drop a few verses of scripture on its recipient, and pretend all will be well soon once they get right with God and learn to trust Him more. In this case, the problem is that we are generally ignoring the reality of the sufferer’s deep and serious hurt. And then of course, there is over reaction; the “drama queen” syndrome, we might say. This person uses the occasion for self-attention and pity. Often times taking advantage of those who would help, and the individual never really learns or grows as God would want them to from the experience.

All of these are false avenues of true biblical sanctification. Not the kind Jesus and Paul were referring to in their admonitions.

So how are we to respond to real suffering? Is there a place for genuine personal pain in the believer’s life? And if so, what does one need to do (as far as they humanly can) to turn that pain into hope, and ultimately something that brings Gory to God, and growth, especially spiritual growth, to self?

Dr. Bob Kellemen’s (of RPM Ministries) newest book, God’s Healing for Life’s Loses: How To Find Hope When You’re Hurting, seeks to address these issues about suffering, and he does so quite well.

I will not review its content, as the interviews over the past week have done that quiet well. But I would like to call your attention to a few highlights of the book that I believe make it a valuable contribution to this subject; and more importantly, a resources you can use personally, or put in the hands of someone you know is hurting.

All-in-all, I believe there are three major contributions Dr. Kellemen brings to the hurting: First, is his “biblical sufferology,” a biblical model of grieving. This model forms the outline and basic substance of the entire book. In this process, Dr. Kelllemen offers the reader a thorough biblical understanding, and prescription, for the realities of suffering. His biblical theology of suffering is explained in eight stages. Each stage receives its own chapter. And in this process, Dr. Kellemen ministers to the suffering by helping us to understand that suffering and pain are normal to life in a fallen world, as well as normal to God’s sanctification process in us. Moreover, God hears us in our pain, and He also is ready to respond to us in our pain. Thus first, and is an excellent way, Dr. Kellemen offers us a full theological framework from which to view, and handle, suffering.

A second major highlight of the book, and related to his presentation of a Biblical Sufferology, is the parallel biblical truth of hope. Dr. Kellemen’s goal is not simply to explain the intricacies of suffering and pain, rather, with the spirit and heart of true biblical counselor, he also wants the reader to understand that running parallel to any pain is the truth of hope. And not just hope that one day things will get better (indeed, for chronic issues, especially related to health, they may not). Most importantly, as he explains, there is hope that is available outside one’s circumstance, the hope that only a trust in God can give. This is the goal of suffering. The latter half of the book (chapters 6-9, that deal with the final four stages) is dedicated to this truth. Read these pages carefully, for no biblical theology of suffering is complete without a thorough understanding of the hope one receives by being rightly related to God. That, in the end, is the only true and complete remedy to suffering and pain.

Finally, I believe that one other major feature of this text makes it immensely useful: that is, the emphasis of practical application throughout the text. Each chapter concludes with several application and processing questions concerning the subject at hand. For one in the midst of present pain, these questions can serve as skillful and loving counsel of how the content can be rightly applied to one’s circumstances. This is one big reason why the book is endorsed by the ministry GriefShare, a ministry dedicated to helping those going through the pain of grief. This text will be a welcome resource for any such person, and any person dealing with pain as the result of any means of personal suffering.

You can find out more about the book, as well as Dr. Kellemen’s other work, on his website: RPM Ministries.
I highly encourage you to do so, you, or someone you know, will greatly benefit from these wise words.

3 John 8
Bill H.

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