No one is exempt from suffering, whether physically, emotionally, or relationally. It matters not if a person is a Christian—everyone experiences suffering to some degree. No doubt suffering has been written about, studied, debated, and discussed for generations. Over time one may begin to wonder if there can possibly be anything new to say about it. But Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian does exactly that. This may be one of the most important books a Christian could read in today’s publishing market. My view on suffering was challenged throughout this book, and by the end of it, I found myself deeply affected in a spiritually transforming way.
Glorious Ruin discusses at length two key issues: The Theology of Glory and the Theology of the Cross. Throughout the text Tchividjian explains the origins of both, as well as key differences between the two.
Glorious Ruin is brimming with powerful truth which provokes pause and careful contemplation in the reader. With brutal honesty, the belief system of the majority of modern Christians is challenged to go well beyond what is generally understood about suffering. Tchividjian also challenges the ideologies permeating from the Prosperity Gospel, Scientism, and Nihilism as well as skillfully working through the New Age “self-transformation” movement. He exposes the fallacy of Karma, and how most every Christian is tainted with the idea that “what goes around comes around”–whether they realize it or not.
“We communicate that God exists for our benefit, happiness, self-fulfillment, and personal transformation. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, and God isn’t necessarily opposed to them, but God in Christ cannot be reduced to a means to our selfish ends. He is the end Himself!” (pg. 47)
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A tremendous amount of detail goes into studying the effects of moralizing and minimalizing suffering, namely within the Church community. We may think we are not guilty of such attitudes, but this book challenges thinking and promotes deep introspection on such issues. If we’re honest, we’ll admit we are at least tempted to rationalize suffering, or explain it, using the word of God. We tend to, at least subconsciously, feel the need to defend God’s allowance of certain tragedies. Glorious Ruin is not another book to offer reasons why a person suffers, it simply points to the Gospel repeatedly as not needing a defense or an explanation.
“The Gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain and suffering; rather, it is the message of God’s rescue through pain.” (pg. 38)
Unlike many Christian resources currently available, it’s clear Glorious Ruin was not written to promote a certain doctrine or theology, but focuses solely on the Gospel as it is written in the Bible, especially through the life and words of Jesus.
“What God pressed deeply into me is that there is no true, lasting hope outside of Him. Specifically, there is no true, lasting hope outside of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about an explanation of what happened on Calvary—I’m talking about Calvary itself.” (pg. 150)
Perhaps one of the most poignant messages of the entire book deals with our inherent need to have things explained. Our natural tendencies are predisposed to asking the Why and How of our circumstances. The following quote hit home for me, personally.
“Explanations…are a substitute for trust, a red herring at best. God is interested in something much more powerful than anything information could ever produce. He is interested in faith.” (pg. 152)
I like to keep my personal “opinions” out of book reviews, keeping to the factual content of the book and letting the reader decide if its right for them, but this case proved impossible for me. I cannot withhold the deep impact this book had on my life and how the truth it contains applies to every living soul on the planet. If you think you know everything about suffering already, I plead with you to read this book. If you live a comfortable life, relatively free of what you consider suffering, I plead with you to read this book anyways—if not for yourself, for the people who walk in to your life who have suffered in ways you may not be able to relate to.
One thing you will not find in Glorious Ruin is an attempt to trivialize pain, or compare one person’s experience to another. Tchividjian rightly acknowledges that we all suffer in unique ways and God has a plan to set us free through that suffering, no matter what its form. Simply put, Glorious Ruin is a must-read Christian resource.
Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian is published through David C. Cook and is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2012.
(I received this book for review purposes only and was not required to give a positive review.)
Tullian Tchividjian is the Senior Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is also the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. Tchividjian is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored many books including Jesus + Nothing = Everything.