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Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life by [Sproul, R. C.]
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Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 156 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Suffering often seems to catch us by surprise. One day we are healthy, comfortable, and happy. The next we find ourselves ill or injured, struggling, and distraught. The pain that invades our lives may come from our own suffering or that of a loved one. But no matter the source, we didn't see it coming. All too often, our perplexity prompts us to suspect God of wrongdoing.

In this classic book, republished in a revised and expanded edition, Dr. R. C. Sproul argues that we should not be surprised by suffering; instead, we should expect pain and sorrow in this life. Some are actually called to a "vocation" of suffering, and all of us are called to undergo the ultimate suffering of death. God promises in His Word that difficult times will come upon us, but He also promises that He allows suffering for our good and His glory, and He will never give us more than we can bear with His help.

Dr. Sproul offers solid biblical counsel and comfort for those undergoing suffering and for those who minister to the suffering, counsel that helps believers stand in times of trial with faith in a God who is both loving and good.


  • Suffering, Perplexity, and Despair
  • Walking the Via Dolorosa
  • A Case Study in Suffering
  • Purpose in Suffering
  • The Final Calling
  • Dying in Faith
  • Speculations on Life after Death
  • Jesus and the Afterlife
  • To Die Is Gain
  • A Vision of Things to Come
  • Conclusion


  • Appendix: Questions and Answers
  • Index of Scripture
  • Index of Subjects and Names

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1249 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Publisher: Reformation Trust Publishing; Revised, expanded edition (Dec 31 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0038OMK9Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,930 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In "Surprised by Suffering," R.C. Sproul attempts to construct for readers a Christian perspective of suffering and death. Sproul takes effort to discuss and answer many common philosophical arguments that people bring up on the topic of suffering. The book is divided into two parts with the first addressing suffering before death and the second in regards to death and the afterlife. In the first part, Sproul establishes that suffering is a natural and necessary part of the Christian life. As followers of Christ, we are reminded that we will experience many sufferings during our lifetime. However, these trials are meant to grow and mature our faith as we learn to lean on Christ for all our needs. Sproul encourages readers to understand that no matter how difficult or harsh our lives become, Christians have two sources of comfort. The first is the sovereignty and goodness of God. We may never completely comprehend how a good God can allow evil to occur in our daily lives. However, the Bible is clear that God is both good and sovereign thus whatever happens to us is by His divine will and to His glory. The second source of comfort is Jesus Christ who sympathizes with us as He experienced the utmost pain and suffering in His earthly ministry. Moreover, Christ is not only the suffering Servant but also the triumphant King who will return and establish His kingdom, a place void of all pain, tears, and death. Thus, though we experience suffering in our earthly lives, we can gain comfort that we have a powerful, sovereign God and a loving, merciful Saviour. In the second half of the book, Sproul shifts his focus to discuss heaven and eternity. Perhaps the author’s doing so may point to the fact that we often focus too much on our present temporary circumstances.Read more ›
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What a wonderfull book i truly enjoyed reading it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d6a6504) out of 5 stars 109 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d69f0c0) out of 5 stars Review of Surprised by Suffering Oct. 23 2010
By Keiki Hendrix - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Is suffering a vocation, a calling from God? Is death a vocation? What is the purpose of our suffering?

First published in 1988, Surprised by Suffering is a resource every Christian should read sometime in their lives. In this revised and expanded release, a new chapter on Sovereignty adds much to the original version.

Having some friends experiencing a great deal of suffering, I read this book in attempt to find some wisdom to share with them. R. C. Sproul does not disappoint. His teaching in this book is very straight forward and addressing the issue of suffering in the life of a Christian exceptionally well.

If you know anything of R. C. Sproul, you will know that he does not teach a pie-in-the-sky view of Christianity. What were my favorite parts and what new insights did I gain from reading this?

He first addresses Karl Marx comment that `religion is the opiate of the masses' - with this comment "There is no scandal in the mercy of God to the afflicted." I just loved that.

And to the `positive thinking' preacher and their teaching, he says "The zealous person who promises us a life free from suffering has found his message from a source other than Scripture."

But what I was looking for in this book I found in this statement "It is when we view our suffering as meaningless - without purpose - that we are tempted to despair." The knowledge that suffering has a purpose is the focus of the entire book.

The Q&A section at the end of the book was also interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it highly.

Reviewed by: Keiki Hendrix
Reviewed for: The Vessel Project
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9da71960) out of 5 stars Suprising book July 11 2011
By joshua r brown - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Surprised By Suffering is a book that truly did surprise me, unexpectedly. The main pretense of the book is different than I would have guessed. What I expected was the typical: "Be encouraged in your suffering because you are in good company of many saints who have suffered before you", and "Jesus suffered, so you should not complain when you suffer". I even expected a little bit of: "If you are really a christian, you should be able to find joy in suffering because Romans 8:28 says that all things (even suffering) are working together for those who are called according to His purposes, for those who love Him." But as I said, this book surprised me.

Dr. R.C. Sproul begins by explaining that we rarely ever, if at all, suffer the way that we make ourselves think we do. We all have a tendency to think that what we are going through at the time is the worst thing that could ever happen to us. He says that we all have a tendency to suppose that we can carry far less than we actually can. Dr. Sproul continues on this point by saying that the promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry, put that He will never put on us more than we can bear.

He then continues to explain the role of suffering in the life of a christian, emphasizing on the BIG picture. Several chapters are spent on the idea that the reason we think of our suffering as we do, is because we are focused only on ourselves and our immediate circumstances. Using Romans 8:28 as home base, R.C. explains that the key word in this verse is "all", meaning that we understand that God uses different things in different ways than we might expect to accomplish his purposes, but if we were able to see the WHOLE picture, everything that God sees, there would be no question as to the purpose of suffering.

What I did not realize until I was half way through the book, is that it is divided into two section: before death, and after death. The first section was about our suffering on earth, and that suffering is part of the whole of God's redemptive work. Section two: After Death, is what really caught me off guard. Right in the middle of the book, R.C. Sproul changed directions completely, with very little transition. At first it didn't really make sense to me and left me wondering why not write two separate books, on suffering and on heaven, rather than the abrupt change in subject. But within a few pages of section two, I got it. And I think it was very purposeful on Dr. Sproul's part to make a complete 180 like this.

The second part is all about Heaven; what it will be like, what we know for sure about it, how we know that it's true, what it will be like to be with Jesus, and so on. What I saw at first as a poor (nonexistent) transition of topics, acted as a proverbial slap in the face, water splash in the face, kick in the rear. It was like he first had to acknowledge the fact that suffering exists in order for us to open up to where we would listen to him, then softly encourages us that it is God who is working all these things out, and then finally gives a swift kick in the pants saying, "stop focusing on yourself! Look what we have to gain and to look forward to!" This effectively snapped me into the mindset that R.C. intended.

The overall feeling that this book left me with was that this life on earth, including suffering, is fleeting, and we are not home yet. This is a most refreshing read for someone who is suffering, as it helps get you outside of yourself, and look at the big picture, with the end goal of eternity without suffering in sight. Thank you Dr. Sproul for a fresh perspective on suffering.

Legal Note: Reformation Trust Publishing will be sending me this book as compensation for this review. Thank you Reformation Trust!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d8392ac) out of 5 stars The Divine Sovereign Design of Suffering July 18 2007
By A. Sutono, a.k.a., Birdey The Observer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Contrary to common views that suffering and injustice is a result of sins, which is not necessarily false, or the free will of man goes rampant beyond God's control, whose jargon is called opentheism, Prof. Sproul affirms the biblical view of the absolute sovereignty of God who has purposes; good, pleasing, holy purposes for his children in his design, not men's design, of every event that happens in their lives including suffering. Death for believers is a noble call to a glorious everlasting joy to be with God forever, something not to be dreaded for, but to look forward to with the certainty of faith, not in a suicidal sense, however, which is a selfish reason to end one's life, that Sproul also discusses in this book. Suffering and death seem to be the life theme, not only for the Apostles, as we read the Scripture texts, particularly in the book of Acts, or 2 Cor 1, for examples; but also for most Christians in the past, as we read texts like "Fox's Book of Martyrs", "Tortured of Christ" by Richard Wurmbrand; as well as for the present day saints, as we read the testimony of courageous brothers and sisters in Christ in hostile nations, available in the free monthly newsletters from the Voice of the Martyrs, for example. What is lacking in this book, in my view, is an elaborate treatment of Christian suffering for the sake of faith, missions and the defense of the biblical truth. Nevertheless, I still recommend this book for its God-centered view on the subject of suffering.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d85b624) out of 5 stars somewhat helpful April 30 2014
By J. Zartman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Our culture ignores and/or marginalizes grief, trauma, and suffering. We tell people to "Get over it!" and we expect to bounce back from trauma in a week or two. I appreciated the first 45 pages of this book where Dr. Sproul discusses the good that can come from suffering. However, he changes gears on page 47 to give a presentation of the gospel in a discussion of death, and focused on death and heaven for the remaining 100 pages. I chose not to continue when he started to discuss Plato and the ancient Greek teachings on the afterlife after a short discussion of Doris Day's song "Que Sera Sera." The attitude toward the reader felt condescending, like he thought we all just needed to go back to elementary teaching on how to understand salvation--what Paul calls "milk." I wanted meat and a cursory examination of the remainder of the book convinced me that I wouldn't find it in this book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d8768d0) out of 5 stars A reader from Illinois April 22 2000
By Robin - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book! In a time when many destructive teachings abound regarding the suffering of Christians and life after death. Dr. Sproul addresses the same topics from a carefully biblical standpoint. I would highly recommend this book and any others by this author.