The Fellowship of the Suffering: How Hardship Shapes Us for Ministry and Mission, By Paul Borthwick and Dave Ripper

The Fellowship of the Suffering

How Hardship Shapes Us for Ministry and Mission

by Paul Borthwick and Dave Ripper

The Fellowship of the Suffering
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: May 15, 2018
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4530
  • ISBN: 9780830845309

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"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." Philippians 3:10 (ASV)

If we follow Jesus, we will experience pain. It comes with the territory. We might face hardship because of our Christian commitment, or we may have challenges just from living in a fallen world. Either way, Christians follow in the footsteps of our suffering Savior and participate in his suffering.

But that's not the whole story. Missionary Paul Borthwick and pastor Dave Ripper show how transformation through our personal pain enables us to minister faithfully to a hurting world. They candidly share about their own struggles and how they have seen God's kingdom advance through hardship and suffering. Though we naturally avoid suffering, Christians throughout church history have become powerful witnesses to Christ as a result of their brokenness.

Life is painful, but pain need not have dominion over us. Instead, it can propel us in missional solidarity with our suffering world. Come find comfort and renewed purpose in the fellowship of the suffering.

"If you are like me, you tend to gloss over your suffering, thinking it unspiritual to dwell on it. The pain is like a friend whose visit you really do not want. Paul and Dave teach us the importance of sitting with this unwelcome friend, learning from him, and, in the end, being transformed. When we do, we find we have been with the Suffering Servant whose friendship graces us in the pain, bringing us what we did not expect: peace and joy. And we find ourselves strangely warmed in the company of the saints of every age."

Scott Arbeiter, president, World Relief

"Awesome book—so absolutely needed! The Fellowship of the Suffering explores the ‘why’ behind our suffering while presenting practical, genuine steps for converting our pain into promise. We recommend this book to anyone brave enough to consider how suffering forges uncommon faith and authentic love in a world desperate for both."

Stephan Bauman, former president and CEO of World Relief, author of Seeking Refuge and Break Open the Sky, and Belinda Bauman, founder of One Million Thumbprints, author of Brave Soul: Lessons in Love, Risk, and the Power of Empathy

"There is a deep richness that comes to people who have faced suffering biblically. A key to this richness is a joy and a contentment that tough experiences cannot take away. But many Christians do not look at suffering in this way. This book helps us to develop a theology that works in giving us the courage to look positively at suffering after experiencing the painful emotions that inevitably come with it. It does not give glib answers but faces squarely with the pain that suffering brings. This is indeed ‘theology that works.’ It is biblically profound, practically alive, easy for lay persons to understand, and motivational for mission and ministry. It will help nurture the kind or authentic and vibrant Christianity that we so badly need today."

Ajith Fernando, teaching director of Youth for Christ Sri Lanka, author of The Call to Joy and Pain

"I’ve lost my husband to Alzheimer’s and survived two bouts with cancer, so I read anything about suffering cautiously. The Fellowship of the Suffering has touched my heart and encouraged my spirit. While we all acknowledge the reality of suffering, we struggle to discover the why. Paul Borthwick and Dave Ripper, experienced sufferers, do not offer trite answers or slick formulas, but rather guide us to and through the how of the dark and disappointing days. There is great comfort from fellowship with others who are also walking through a season of suffering, deep wisdom in the words from those who really understand, and rich hope in the journey to the One who has suffered and invites us to join him on the mourning bench. This is a book that will not sit on my bookshelf but will be taken down again and again so I can draw from its refreshing and honest insight."

Cynthia Fantasia, former pastor of women’s ministries at Grace Chapel, Lexington, MA

“Paul has jokingly said that this book will obviously not be a bestseller like one on health and wealth might be, but I think he’s completely wrong. Suffering and brokenness are the common experiences to which all who live in this world can relate. As the authors share their stories, you will be drawn into their pain and find yourself saying, ‘someone does understand.’ The book contains wonderful gems such as, ‘to choose faithfulness in the face of suffering is a process.’ There are no simple answers or platitudes, but instead genuine, realistic thoughts that will help you find your way through the pain."

Jane Overstreet, President and CEO, Development Associates International

"When I first broke my neck and landed in a wheelchair, I thought the Lord was being grossly unfair. I wondered, isn’t God being too heavy-handed? Is this kind of suffering ‘normal’ in the normal Christian life? Those were honest questions, and I wasn’t about to settle for anything less than honest answers. However, over the years the answers I found most satisfying and fulfilling weren’t quite what I expected—but they more than sufficed! It’s why I recommend this book. Paul Borthwick and Dave Ripper write not only from decades of hard study, but from the heartache of personal experience—thus their words carry weight. If you are looking for the right perspective when things go wrong—very wrong—then The Fellowship of the Suffering is a must-read. And you don’t have to break your neck to grasp its wisdom."

Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

"The Fellowship of the Suffering is not only biblically relevant and historically redemptive, but it's personally restorative, most notably when everything above, beneath, around, or within us seems to be falling apart. We don't realize how much we believe it to be true until we need it the most. With refreshing transparency and spiritual vitality, Paul and Dave invite us to consider our broken lives in the context of the gospel of grace, where the deepest fellowship sets us free to receive and release all of our pain now and ultimately for God's glory."

Stephen A. Macchia, founder and president of Leadership Transformations, author of Broken and Whole

"Reading this book truly is an experience of fellowship as we're guided through this difficult subject. If suffering is in any way part of your life (and I'm sure it is!), then I highly recommend this vulnerable, biblical, wise, practical, and important book. I'm grateful for my time in fellowship with Borthwick and Ripper and you will be too."

Kent Annan, author of Slow Kingdom Coming

"For many of us who are ushered down the painful path of suffering, we need a fresh reminder that as apprentices of Jesus our suffering is not a senseless dead-end, but rather a welcome mat at the open door of more intimate communion with God and others. The Fellowship of the Suffering lifts the myopic veil from our eyes and puts a hopeful shout in our souls as well as helpful wisdom in our hands. I recommend it."

Tom Nelson, president of Made to Flourish Pastors' Network

"This is a book for the journey of life. . . . With the beauty of intergenerational friendship, Paul and Dave come alongside with inspiring Scripture and stories that authentically connect our collective experiences of suffering on this side to the hope we share in Christ for eternity. I have been reflecting on how God shapes praise out of our pain, and testimony out of testing times. . . . Here is an authentic, life-giving, practical companion to the life of 'sharing in the fellowship of His suffering.'"

Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, director of the Lausanne Younger Leaders Generation

"The Fellowship of the Suffering is an important, thorough look at all sides of suffering and our varied responses to it. There is no fluff here. Paul and Dave have worked hard to scour their own souls for how they have experienced suffering and in an honest and forthright way share their stories. A small group could study this book for a year and not run out of ideas, Scriptures, or stories to cause transformational growth and understanding that could prepare anyone for suffering well. I especially appreciate that a younger man and a seasoned man give their insights—everyone will feel included."

Gail MacDonald, author of In His Everlasting Arms: Learning to Trust God in All Circumstances and coauthor of If Those Who Reach Could Touch

"So what do a couple of flourishing American Christians have to say about suffering? Quite a bit it turns out. Dave and Paul offer fresh insight into the nature and significance of suffering, drawn from thoughtful reflection on Scripture and their personal experiences with hardship and heartache. Along the way they draw upon the wisdom of spiritual masters, and share humbling and inspiring testimonies from the global church. Their conversational style makes an intimidating topic accessible, and invites readers from any background into the fellowship of those who have found meaning, comfort, and transformation by sharing, ultimately, in the sufferings of Christ."

Bryan Wilkerson, senior pastor at Grace Chapel, Lexington, MA

"The Fellowship of the Suffering is a must-read. Both Dave and Paul are so open and honest about their own hardships they have suffered and remind us that we are never alone through it all. God is always with us and working in us, and we have one another to lean on."

Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins defenseman

"The Fellowship of the Suffering is more than a treatise on the role of suffering in our lives. It is an invitation—to more deeply and profoundly experience Jesus, the community of believers, and the world that desperately needs him. No matter where you are in your journey of faith, this book will invite you to see the trials and tribulations of our lives with fresh eyes, and will offer perspective and encouragement and ultimately hope."

Manuel Luz, author of Honest Worship

"My experience is that the happiest and most fulfilled people I know don't seem to have any fewer problems than anyone else. It's a matter of having a better perspective. As it turns out, suffering finds us all, and how we handle our suffering can turn an ordinary life into an extraordinary life. This book is a treasure that will touch the hearts of all who read it."

Jim Burns, president of HomeWord

Read an Excerpt



Part 1: Welcome to the Fellowship
1. Suffering Comes with the Territory
2. The Worst Suffering: Paul’s Story
3. Learning to Trust Anyway: Dave and Erin’s Story

Part 2: Fellowship with Christ
4. The Sun Comes from the Dark: Prayer Through Suffering
5. Becoming the Kind of People the World Needs: Transformation Through Suffering
6. Not What I Expected: Joy Through Suffering

Part 3: Fellowship with Others
7. It’s Our Family: Solidarity Through Suffering
8. Pain as Common Ground: Neighboring Through Suffering

Part 4: Fellowship with the World
9. The Seed Must Die to Multiply: Mission Through Suffering
10. Are You Really Passionate? Calling Through Suffering

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Paul Borthwick

Paul Borthwick (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior consultant for Development Associates International and previously taught global Christianity at Gordon College for thirty years. His books include Western Christians in Global Mission; Six Dangerous Questions to Transform Your View of the World; Great Commission, Great Compassion; and The Fellowship of the Suffering.

Dave Ripper

Dave Ripper is the lead pastor of Crossway Christian Church, a multi-congregational church in Southern New Hampshire, focused on spiritual formation. He earned a doctor of ministry in spiritual direction from Fuller Theological Seminary and The Martin Institute for Christianity and Culture and Dallas Willard Research Center at Westmont College. He is coauthor of The Fellowship of the Suffering and serves as the chaplain for the Boston Bruins. Dave and his wife, Erin, a mental health therapist, have three children. They make their home in the woodlands of New England near Nashua, New Hampshire.