Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elizabeth Elliot (Book Review)

“Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.

Elisabeth Elliot was no stranger to suffering. Her first husband, Jim, was murdered by the Waoroni people in Ecuador moments after he arrived in hopes of sharing the gospel. Her second husband was lost to cancer. Yet, it was in her deepest suffering that she learned the deepest lessons about God.

Why doesn’t God do something about suffering? He has, He did, He is, and He will.

Suffering and love are inexplicably linked, as God’s love for His people is evidenced in His sending Jesus to carry our sins, griefs, and sufferings on the cross, sacrificially taking what was not His on Himself so that we would not be required to carry it. He has walked the ultimate path of suffering, and He has won victory on our behalf.

This truth led Elisabeth to say, “Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him.”” -Suffering is Never for Nothing, Elizabeth Elliot.

I adore this book.

Most everyone has suffered. I’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t suffered somehow. Elliot gives the definition of suffering as, “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.”

This encompasses something as trivial as a broken washing machine to something as devastating as cancer. We’ve all suffered.

As a Christian, I have had people throw the question “if God exists, why do bad things happen in the world?” at me. To be honest, it can be hard to try to articulate why there is suffering in the world, but after reading this book, I feel like it’s almost obvious. Jesus suffered for us. It’s in love that we suffer, and it’s in love that we have suffering given to us. The will of God is love. It’s that simple and that complex all at once.

It’s easier to grasp that if we did not lose something, that something else wouldn’t happen. If she didn’t get divorced, she’d never have met her current husband. If he hadn’t have lost that job, he never would have begun painting again.

Do you see what I mean? Something that seems like a curse is most often looked back on and seen as a blessing. Suffering is never for nothing. We may not understand it in the moment (I sure don’t), but it has a purpose.

Elliot quotes a poem by Grant Colfax Tullar that I’m going to include here:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

– The Weaver

Isn’t that beautiful? I’m glad she included it because it’s a wonderful illustration of how we don’t know what God has planned. We merely trust in Him.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Why: Elliot is a wonderful speaker and writer. This book was technically a recording of a seminar she held that was after her death transcribed into book form. The examples she gives are amazingly helpful. She lays out how to let suffering transfigure you into a new, stronger, better person. And I believe her. Elliot herself lost her first husband to murder. She lost her second husband to cancer. She knows about loss and about suffering.

The advice that she gives convicted me in the best way possible. It made me think not only how I’ve reacted to major problems in my life but to more minor problems. I can say that I’ve handled some huge things well, but I can also see that I’ve not handled smaller problems as well. I have genuinely learned from reading Elliot’s words.

I also highly appreciate that Elliot relates everything back to Scripture. She gives many, many examples of people in the Bible (Old and New Testament alike) who suffer and how they are blessed for that suffering.

Do you remember the Beatitudes? (Matthew 5:2-11)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…

And so on. Suffering is not new. It is not a curse. The will of God is love.

Ending thoughts: If you’re going through something and especially if you’re having a hard time grasping why something is happening please read this book. On a personal note, I have filled this past month with ‘why’ prayers.

“Why, God, did this happen?” “Why are you making me go through this?”

God knows that I’m hurting and He knows that I don’t understand, but He’s telling me (and you) to trust Him. Because He loves us. And so I will.

Reading Suffering is Never for Nothing has helped me fully understand that that suffering and love are deeply entwined. And I know that I’ll never stop loving so I suppose I’ll never stop leaving myself open to the possibility of suffering. And I’m okay with that.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Read it even if you feel like you’ve never truly suffered. Give it to a friend who is concerned about how there can be suffering and a good God. It’s a quick read too! It’s only 105 pages, so you don’t have to labor over it to gain Elliot’s wisdom. This book will change your perspective on grieving and suffering. I wholeheartedly believe you could benefit from that as much as I did.

Soli deo gloria.


Links for Suffering is Never for Nothing:

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