To live is to suffer. It is sadly inevitable that in this sinful world, we will all suffer. Some suffer more than others and some suffer for different reasons than others. But the fact remains that all of us will face hardship and pain. Knowing this, we are wise to arm ourselves for those times, to prepare ourselves for the inevitable affliction. Does Grace Grow in Winter?, authored by Ligon Duncan and J. Nicholas Reid is just the kind of book that does this so well, offering wise, biblical, pastoral counsel useful to those in the fight and to those only preparing to fight. The book considers suffering in the light of the sovereignty of our wise and loving God.
“The problem with the way many Christians treat suffering,” say the authors, “is that they simply attempt to put a happy face on trials. A little personal suffering, however, goes a long way in revealing how vacuous careless platitudes can be. The issue of suffering is not to be treated in a cold and pedantic manner. Suffering is real and not something to be handled several steps removed. Yet if we address suffering merely subjectively, without focusing on the objective truths of the Bible, then there is all the reason in the world to despair.” Through this short book they attempt to address suffering from a biblical perspective, asking why we suffer, how we are to suffer and how we ought to respond to such difficult times.
The authors cover this territory through four chapters. First they look at the question of “Why Me?” and seek to provide the background to suffering and then look at several ways of suffering well (which is to say, suffering in a way that brings glory to God). In the second chapter they ask “What is God Up To?” and show how important it is that we always see God right at the center of our suffering–that we do not begin to believe that when we suffer, we do so without God. They look at four things God says he intends to accomplish through suffering. Chapter three asks, “How Can We Profit From Suffering?” and offers seven things believers can do to profit from affliction. The fourth and final chapter asks, “What Should We Think of Jesus’ Suffering?” Here they show that Jesus’ suffering allows him to be sympathetic to us in ours’ and then asks what we are to learn from what and how Jesus suffered. Thus, though it is short, the book offers a well-rounded look at the topic.
Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? was first delivered at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi as a series of lectures and that format remains evident even in the book. There is an urgency to the message, an applicability to the message, that comes, no doubt, from the fact that Duncan only had a few hours (and, hence, only a few pages) to communicate his message.
I suspect that the large type, thick paper and seven pages of related books from the publisher are meant to make this look like a more substantial volume than it really is. All-told the actual text comes to 87 pages though, again, this is with a rather large font size. So do know when you buy this book that you are not purchasing an exhaustive volume offering a thorough treatment of suffering. This book can be read in an evening and that is one of its great strengths. It is short but it packs a punch. It may not be the only book you’ll want in your library dealing with this subject, but it is certainly a worthy addition on its own merits. I highly recommend it.