“When God Weeps” is a book that confronts our perception of suffering in a way that forces us to re-examine our assessment of God’s role and reason in it. As those who will encounter suffering and will be sinned against throughout our earthly lives, it is a book worth reading. As believers who are called to come alongside one another, reading it is time well spent. Read is slowly and prayerfully, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts and attitudes.
Coauthor Steve Estes makes it clear that the purpose for the book is, “…about God weeping over human heartache, his entering our anguish himself, and the love that drives him to let us suffer.” (page 12). Coauthor Joni Eareckson Tada adds, “It’s Steve’s and my prayer that through the book you will better understand why our weeping matters to a loving God. A God who, one day, will make clear the meaning behind every tear.” (Page 14). I appreciated the book. It was very thought provoking. But throughout the book much more emphasis was placed on the expectation, reason, and hope in our suffering then God’s “weeping” over it. The emphasis on God was less about his compassion (although it was presented clearly and succinctly), and more on his attributes of being sovereign, good, and wise.
The book focuses on suffering. The authors investigate God’s role in our suffering, not only in the why of our suffering, but how it is an integral part of God’s plan for us. From God’s viewpoint, suffering is not a mistake, but is purposeful. God is not only aware of it, but a part of it. The book examines the specificity of suffering as part of God’s wisdom and love for his people. God is not caught off guard by suffering or persecution. We learn that suffering exposes our hearts, our allegiances, our fears, and our desires. We are reminded that while suffering is to be expected, God does love us and we do not have a high priest that cannot sympathize with our sufferings. Finally, the authors remind us in their own words that these present sufferings cannot compare to the glory and wonder awaiting us in heaven.
The book was broken down into three sections:
- Who is this God?
- What is he up to?
- How can I hang on?
Throughout each of these sections the authors did a good job of explaining suffering from these different perspectives. It became evident early that God calls us to suffer as a matter of his tenderness and compassion, and if we don’t realize this we will be misreading much that goes on in our lives. This is the context that is “King” in the way we view life, which keeps us from shaking our fists at God. This is a God who understands our sufferings, because Jesus Christ endured them himself. This was no accident.
“The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The father rejected the son whom he loved. Jesus, the God – man from Nazareth, perished. The father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The rescue was accomplished. This is who asks us to trust him when he calls on us to suffer.”(page 54)
And the authors go on to remind us of God’s sovereignty in the world and in our lives. We are part of God’s unchanging plan. Our persecution and suffering are not plan B or C or D. God has only one plan which includes that many Christians will suffer. And so when we suffer we must fight the emotion to react and respond properly to what God is trying to teach us. The authors spent significant time making the point that nothing happens outside of God’s decree.
In chapter 6 titled,” Heaven’s Dirty Laundry?”, the authors spend significant time going into great detail regarding how God works sovereignly in the lives of people. I read this chapter over twice because it was both fascinating and conflicting at the same time. If I have any complaint with the book it is this middle section that, in my opinion, attempted to explain in detail how God causes things to come to pass. By the time one finishes chapter 7, it would be easy to think that we can understand God’s ways as if they were wrapped in a box with a bow on top. While we can understand some of why God does what he does, an indiscriminate reader might be led astray in their theology by the detail in which the book attempted to explain the how. In the midst of this detailed explanation we read the words, “We pretend to set placidly as million-gallon truths are poured into our court-sized heads.” (page 97). This is the real truth as we discuss the deep things of Scripture, and the deep things of God. We cannot understand the detail of how God brings these things to pass.
But the Bible is clear as to why. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, we do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31), “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). While God’s glory was mentioned multiple times throughout the book, my sense was that the authors intent was to focus mostly on our relationship with Christ and fellowship with Christ through suffering.
The book ended with great hope. Through suffering we are forced to become content in the state in which God has placed us. John Piper is quoted on page 179 in speaking of what this contentment truly is when he writes, “…our aim is not merely to avoid something, but to gain something excellent… We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meat when we can smell the steak sizzling on the grill.” We are more than content when we deeply consider Christ Jesus. And the hope follows with a reminder that someday our suffering will be gone. We look forward to the reality of heaven where suffering, and our reward, will be our joy. With this perspective, the suffering will be worth it.