Discussion Guide: suffering

Featuring jake bouma


“Cancer is one of those things in life that thrusts us into an immediate ‘Oh crap’… I get paid to be a Christian… and here I am at age 27 receiving this diagnosis in a very public venue, having to wrestle with my faith.” - Timestamp: 4:44-5:41


Section One: 

At what moments do you feel you are expected to have all the answers?
When you are in a leadership role, how do you handle your own doubts about work, life, faith?
How would your relationships change (good and/or bad) if you had to deal with one of your biggest struggles publicly?


“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, people say all sorts of crazy things … when people start saying things to them… a lot of times despite whatever words come out of their mouth, what they’re trying to say is I love you… I’m sorry and I love you.” - Timestamp: 6:26-7:08


Section Two

People say a lot of different things in conversation with and around those struggling. Do you see these kinds of comments as a sign of love? Do you find framing them in this way helpful?


“That being said, people say some very interesting things… I would hear these things and do my best to say ‘thank you’… does everything really happen for a reason?” - Timestamp: 7:09-9:00

Section Three

When have you heard or said these kinds of things before?
How do you think you would respond if these things were said to you?


“It leads you to this question ‘why?’… And because I am who I am, and I’m interested in theology… what it comes down to is this thing we call ‘divine providence’… how and to what extend is God involved in the affairs of the world?” - Timestamp: 9:25-10:20

Section four

Jake presents three ways of understanding how God is involved in our world:

  1. Meticulous Providence – Every single thing that happens is determined by God. (most linked to ‘Everything happens for a reason’)
  2. Limited Providence – Everything that happens is permitted by God but not necessarily determined by God.
  3. Open Theism – The universe is one of possibilities that always ends at the promise of new life. God doesn’t know, but walks with us through the path we choose.

Which of these ideas rings most true for you?
Do you struggle with any of these ideas? Why?
How do these various ideas inform the way we view God in other aspects of our lives?


“Here I was, trying to make sense of all that is going on… One thing that I claimed early on… is that… God is good – ‘All the time.’ All the time – ‘God is good.’… If God is good all the time, then what about cancer? The place I landed ultimately was that God doesn’t give cancer, God grieves cancer.” - Timestamp: 16:23-17:39

Section five

Jake presents an image of God walking alongside us in our joys and difficulties.
How does this relate to the way that you see God?
Do you find comfort in the idea that God grieves with us? Why or why not?


“The psalmist doesn’t sound happy at all to me… complaint is a very legitimate category of prayer… and at the same time, the psalmist is able to look out into the future… ‘and yet, I have trusted in your steadfast love’… the good news for me is that it didn’t make me any less of a Christian… it just meant that’s what I was feeling.” - Timestamp: 25:20-27:20

Section Six

Read Psalm 13

When have you been afraid to share your struggles, thinking that you were expected to be feeling something else?
Have you ever thought about complaint as a category of prayer? Why or why not?


“One of my really good friends… let me continue to be ‘me’… One of the ways people can be really good friends is by not tip-toeing… just by letting you be you.” - Timestamp: 32:16-33:43

Section Seven

Whether we’re going through something difficult or working through our day-to-day life, it’s important to have people to support us.
Is there someone like this that you know?
How do they “let you be you?”
Dream together. What would it be like if we were able to support people like this every day?


“Ultimately that was another phrase that made me step back and reflect: We’ll pray for you, we’ll pray for your healing… the love that my wife and I felt from our community was tangible… ” - Timestamp: 45:50-48:31

Section eight

Have you thought about prayer in this way before?
Do you find it helpful to think about prayer as an act of love? How so?