Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: "Be Still, My Soul"

Be Still, My Soul:  Embracing God’s Purpose & Provision in Suffering:  25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain, edited by Nancy Guthrie is pretty much what one would expect – a good collection of Christian writing on suffering.

Guthrie divides her book into three sections:  God’s perspective on suffering, God’s purpose in suffering, and God’s provision in suffering.

In the first section, citing two classic and seven contemporary writers, one finds a fairly unified theme of suffering being God’s plan.  The writers look at sin, Jesus’ suffering, and how this is all according to what God intended.

In the second, with one classic and seven contemporary, one sees that God uses suffering to prove and mature us.

In the third, with four classic and four contemporary writers, one sees that suffering is attended by God’s provision in Him and according to His purposes.

There is much to commend this book, including the opportunity to read selections from Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Sproul, Edwards, Piper, Burroughs, etc.  By and large, as I read it, the answers and meditations on the subject are biblical, and they may well help the Christian to understand something of suffering and be able to endure it when it occurs.

The books and its selections are certainly aimed at Christians; this is not the book to give to non-Christians to help them with the problem – they have not received Christ, so all this talk of God’s purposes in Christ would unlikely be heard by them.  

This book, while helpful to one who is suffering, might even be better as preparatory material for those who are not currently suffering or will suffer in the future – it is difficult to wrestle with these issues in the midst of suffering, but having read them, they may be brought to mind in the moment.

I am guessing the Scriptures that appear at the head of each reading were chosen by the editor.  I do not remember any note as to whether they are specifically associated with the original work of placed with them by the editor.

The one piece that did not appeal to me was Philip Yancey’s.  I was concerned in his minimizing the life of Christ as opposed to His death (27) and his saying that we must “prove” ourselves on earth to secure our destiny (29).  I find these less than biblical concepts and, frankly, wish his piece was not in the book.

I also come to attention as I read each piece being “edited,” “adapted,” “excerpted,” etc.  While I understand it would be practically impossible to include the full works in such a collection, and I am very grateful that each work has reference material to lead one to the full work, I am always concerned when someone chops pieces out of another’s work – is that really what the author intended?  Is there anything more to the argument?  Etc.

That being said, I find this an excellent introductory collection on suffering for Christians.  I would hope it would be used and then would be an encouragement for those who read it to follow up by reading the full works that these pieces come from. 

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