Book Review: Elliot’s “Suffering is Never for Nothing”

Autumn finally arrived this week in the Ozarks. The record-breaking, sweltering September finally gave way to October, and today it is cool with steadily falling rain.

I curled up this morning and finished Elisabeth Elliot’s Suffering is Never for Nothing, a posthumous transcription of some conference talks she gave years ago. While the writing isn’t her typical prose, those of us familiar with her radio show can hear her voice clearly in the pages.

I hardly know what to say about the book. It is, of course, brilliant and challenging and comforting. It’s written by “our friend Elisabeth” after all. I don’t cry often or easily while reading, but this book moved me to tears several times. Elisabeth Elliot knew suffering intimately, and she went through things many of us can only imagine. Still, she affirms the small woes we all face. Her understanding deeply touched me.

The last two chapters — the ones I read this morning — were oddly apropos. Chapter 5 reflected on the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarepath, which was part of my lectionary reading yesterday. Chapter 6 looked at Jesus teaching in John 12 about the necessity of the seed dying — the very passage I had read this morning in N.T. Wright’s John for Everyone, Part 2. The phrase “for the life of the world” comes up a few times as well — the title of the book by Alexander Schmemann I plan to read soon.

Little coincidences? More like small signs of providence. The chapters meant more with those scripture passages fresh in my mind. And they would have lacked some of their force had not God’s fingerprints been so keenly felt.

Things like this happen — especially whenever I read an Elisabeth Elliot book it seems. And as small as these mercies are, I can’t help feeling delighted and consoled. Even in the small things, God is with me.

Update: The talks the book is based on are available to watch for free here.

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