TORN TO HEAL by Mike Leake is a biblical look at the role of suffering in our lives. The problem of suffering is inevitably one that everyone struggles with at some point, especially if you believe in an all-loving God who wants good for those who believe in him. Leake looks at suffering as a way in which God refines believers, developing their character and their faith. He does this by appealing to a story in the book of Hosea where God compares himself to a husband who has been cheated on by with his wife, the nation of Israel. In this particular story, God personifies himself as a husband who takes away all the good things that he gave his wife and strips her bare before all of her adulterous lovers. Honestly, it’s a pretty intense and disturbing scene. Leake uses this story and several other passages of Scripture to describe a God who loves his people enough to “tear” them so that they can be healed. The goal of the book is to outline some surprising benefits to suffering.
No doubt the Scriptures indicate that suffering tests our faith in God and provides an opportunity to grow. I like how this book encourages us to see suffering as an opportunity to grow. However, the book takes a deterministic approach to God’s causation of every event that happens in history. This, of course, means that all suffering is ultimately intended by God, even if it is immediately caused by secondary agents. And if you believe that suffering is meant to help you grow, then it’s not far off to assume that every instance of suffering that ever happens is meant to bring about some good in the world. As Paul said, “Everything works together for good for those that love him.” But what about when people don’t grow from suffering? What if it breaks them instead? What about unbelievers? Surely, suffering sometimes leads unbelievers to embrace Christ, but not always. Though I agree with the author that suffering can be opportunity for our faith to be tested and for us to grow, it seems like a deterministic approach to God’s sovereignty would lead someone to honestly raise the question of why there is so much wasted suffering in the world. Why is there so much suffering that produces no good at all?
Another concern I have with the common approach to suffering is that people begin to replace God’s role in their lives as God with something I call “the event catalyst.” What is supposed to cause us to change? God, obviously. That’s his role as God. If God changes us and acts as the catalyst to our change, then he is indeed the God of our lives. But sometimes people only change as a result of suffering. I won’t argue that some people are driven to God and change as a result of what they come to believe about God in the midst of their suffering, but I believe many people rely on suffering as an event catalyst to change. When suffering and not God causes us to change, the suffering replaces the role of God. Does God use suffering to bring about change in us? He can and does. But is it necessary? Only in so much as we, as fallen creatures, won’t submit otherwise. God wants to us to place our faith in him and change as a result of our faith in him. I believe suffering is used by God, but may not be in every instance intended by God specifically to bring about change in us.
Obviously, I’ve raised a lot of questions, and there are many others that I have on the subject, but as this is a review of TORN TO HEAL, I want to simply say that I appreciate Leake’s heart toward helping people wrestle with this difficult issue. It raised some questions in me, especially concerning the episode in Hosea that I will continue to wrestle through, so I appreciate him facing the issue head on. Definitely check out the book and be encouraged to latch onto Christ in the midst of suffering.
Review copy provided by Cruciform Press
Photo Credit: Cruciform Press