Denise Day Spencer

March 18, 2011

“A Path Through Suffering – Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and Our Pain,” by Elisabeth Elliot

Filed under: Book review — denisedayspencer @ 7:47 pm

Instead of writing about grief I’ve decided to do something different and write about books on grief. You’re still not getting much of a break from this, are you? Sorry; it’s where my life is these days.

I’ve been reading books on grief over the past year and I thought it might be helpful to post some reviews. My plan is to write these in the order in which I read the books. First up is Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering — Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and Our Pain, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, MI 1990.

The backdrop to this book is John 12:24 — “A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls to the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest.” Elliot says, “There is a necessary link between suffering and glory.”

Each chapter of this book begins with an excerpt from Lilias Trotter’s Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-Life. Throughout A Path Through Suffering are black and white reproductions of Trotter’s watercolors of desert plant life. The plant imagery works well as Elliot speaks of suffering as a form of spiritual pruning, new life being birthed from the death of the old and springtime always coming no matter how severe the winter.

Elliot’s underlying assumption for her book is detailed in the first chapter when she tells of her two-year-old daughter, Valerie, learning to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and asking if Jesus had loved her daddy. When Elliot answered “yes,” the inevitable question followed. Then why did God let the Auca Indians kill him? “I did not know all God’s reasons…” Elliot confessed. “But that He had reasons, I was sure. That they were loving reasons I was also sure. The assurance that it was not for nothing comforted me and I gave peace to my child.”

She draws on stories from the lives of many Christians who have endured suffering for the glory of God, including Joan Andrews, Amy Carmichael, Walter Ciszek and others from Elliot’s personal life. A Path Through Suffering is firmly grounded in Biblical principles, with liberal references to scriptural heroes of the faith as well.

I found this to be a good book on suffering in general, and it was definitely helpful to me in my grief. Elliot encouraged me to hang onto the belief that God had a purpose for events I could never possibly understand. She reminded me that our God is One who can and does bring life out of death — something I desperately needed to hear as I began, ever so slowly, facing life without my Michael.


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