Tullian Tchividjian has a message we may not want to hear: When God puts us through the crucible of suffering—no matter how large or small that suffering may actually be—His primary desire is not our personal growth. And it certainly isn’t primarily to prepare us for some future reward and/or “spiritual workman’s comp” for all we’ve been put through. It’s to increase His glory, and to free us to enjoy it as well.
In order to enjoy God’s presence in the midst of suffering, however, we must let go of the need to see (or formulate) a Why for our suffering; neither can we excuse God’s role in allowing it. “[I]f our suffering is hedged in language intended to shield God from culpability, we never get beyond the life-support stage [of our own Christianity],” Tullian says.
Naturally, the book of Job is woven in and out of these pages, as well as some of Tullian’s own personal experiences of “the freedom of defeat.” As he puts it earlier on, “[W]e don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself. For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.”
The accompanying Bible study incorporates Job even moreso into the discussion. (It’s also interesting to note that while the study reflects the content of the book and is included in the leader kit, it doesn’t directly tie the book into the study at all.) The study guide also includes three weekly “personal times,” to help group members reflect and digest further on their own.
Each of the study’s six sessions includes a 15-20 minute message from Tullian, and thus leaves a decent amount of time for group discussion. But it’s the first-hand accounts included here of people who’ve experienced suffering, in a variety of ways, that really sticks with you afterward. These rubber-hits-the-road pieces can be tough to listen to at times; then again, that’s kind of the point.
As Tullian quotes R.E.M. early on in the book, “Everybody hurts.” Glorious Ruin will help you and your small group put your own suffering into perspective—not by minimizing nor by exaggerating it, but by helping you find God in the midst of it.