As a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates, including thoughts on our recent releases. I try to mention titles shortly after they appear, so this one is a bit tardy. It’s a good book, though, and one I didn’t want to let pass by.
In Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in Suffering, Mike Leake offers a “bare bones theology of suffering.” He does this by reflecting on the idea that “God uses the tearing of suffering to provide healing—a healing that goes far beyond the wound that is claiming our immediate attention.”
He begins with examples from the lives of Abraham, Hosea, Gideon, Joseph, and Job. He shows that God fulfills his promises, but does so in ways that seem (to us, anyway) counterintuitive. Then, in the heart of the book, he shows two ways Christians can get things seriously wrong: dualism and stoicism.
Both ways of thinking are faulty, both are partly correct, and both come in semi-Christian versions that run rampant in the church and do great harm. The dualistic Christian acknowledges that evil is something to strive against, but neglects the truth that God is sovereign over all things, even our suffering. The stoic Christian, on the other hand, may understand that God is sovereign, but will take a “grin and bear it” attitude toward suffering, without recognizing that God has a purpose for every trial.
After explaining the dangers of “deadly dualism” and “shallow stoicism,” Leake then offers the gospel view of suffering:
So the gospel agrees with the stoic in that God is sovereign and that we ought to humble ourselves under his mighty hand. And it agrees with the dualist in that there is real evil which God is in the business of eradicating. Yet at the end of the day the gospel proclaims (over against the dualist) an absolutely sovereign God and (over against the stoic) a God who incarnates himself and weeps for man’s suffering.
By uncovering the errors of dualism and stoicism, and then showing us the correct view of suffering, Leake equips us to spot faulty thinking in ourselves and others. And because he lays out everything so simply, we can remember and apply these truths long after we’ve finished the book.