Torn to Heal is a self-proclaimed "bare bones theology of suffering". In it, Mike Leake is faithful to God's Word, down-to-earth, honest, and Gospel-centered. He has a sense of humor which permeates his writing, making the book an enjoyable read. Leake successfully shows something of the beauty of suffering, the good gift that it is, and how gracious it is of God to allow us to suffer. Although suffering doesn't feel good, there are things that we learn through suffering that would likely never be learned apart from it. In Leake's words: "...sometimes the only possible path to greater joy is the path of suffering" (pg. 37).
One of the most helpful and encouraging facets of Torn to Heal is the way that Leake highlights some of the many benefits of suffering. For example, Job developed a "depth to his relationship with Yahweh [the LORD] he had not enjoyed before the calamity" (pg. 45). Samuel Rutherford also knew something of this, as evidenced when he wrote: "And sure I am, it is better to be sick, providing Christ come to the bed-side, and draw aside the curtains, and say, 'Courage, I am thy salvation,' than to enjoy health, being lusty and strong, and never to be visited by God" (pg. 77).
Furthermore, Leake employs numerous word pictures to help the reader better understand the benefits of suffering. One such illustration revolves around playing sports: practices, endless drills, and grueling "suffering"...all discipline that enabled his team to run circles around the opposing team. He then explains what we read in Romans 5:3-4, namely, that suffering is meant to build endurance and perseverance in us (pg. 49). Understanding these truths allows believers to rejoice in suffering.
Another beneficial word picture conveys well that: "Tearing is often the means to healing. Suffering paves the road to eternal joy" (pg. 51). Leake writes about a life-saving surgery that his Dad needed to have, how his dad "had to be radically and deeply wounded in order to be made well" (pg. 36). Afterwards, he explains that we, too, must be deeply wounded in order to be made well. He refers to this as, "Suffering from without promoting holiness from within" (pg. 50).
Throughout Torn to Heal, Leake covers a lot of ground. He makes important distinctions between divine punishment and divine discipline; he examines enemies of our souls with regard to suffering: comfortable dualism & stoic indifference; and he helps his readers to understand what the apostles knew so well: "Jesus is so precious that the cost of growing closer to him is nearly irrelevant--the price is worth it" (pg. 78). Part of the reason the apostles could count it all joy when they experienced suffering was because they new how desperately they needed it...for...their...souls. Torn to Heal assists the reader in seeing the value of suffering that they too may count it all joy. "Our loving Father uses the furnace of suffering to separate from us anything that will not lead to our ultimate delight. Though painful at the time, there is a good purpose of God in our suffering" (pg. 86).
BUT...Leake doesn't leave us there. For believers in Christ, our sufferings are temporary. Leake reminds us that Christians are filled with hope because we know the outcome. In this world we will have troubles, but Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). Leake meditates upon the fact that our present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us in the future (Ro. 8:18). In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes: "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…" (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV). Additionally, Revelation 21 informs us that there will be an end to suffering for believers. In the meantime, we can have hope, joy, and peace, as we reflect upon God's good purpose in our present suffering and in the knowledge that things will not always be this way. Torn to Heal is an excellent means to that end. I highly recommend it!
*Many thanks to Cruciform Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!