When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent

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Author: Ligon Duncan


Finding Hope in the Psalms

Are you feeling despondent, depressed, or discouraged? When we encounter severe trials and suffering, we are often tempted to think
that our situation is somehow out of God’s hands. In these dark times, God seems silent, and we feel isolated, confused, and alone. Everyone experiences suffering; even the biblical writers expressed anguish at times. This emotion is clearly captured in the Psalms. Through these brief meditations on Psalms 88 and 89, Ligon Duncan shows us how to respond to our own suffering with the assurance of our heavenly Father’s mercy, which sustains us even in the darkest circumstances.

Table of Contents:

Foreword by Mark Dever

1.Psalm 88
   What Can Miserable Christians Sing?
   Surveying the Psalm: Four Observations
   Four Lessons for Suffering Well
   Our Suffering and the Suffering of Jesus
2.Psalm 89
   Three Hope-Filled Observations from Psalm 89
   Three Doctrines That Sustain Us in Suffering
   One Final Hope: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
General Index
Scripture Index


About the author:

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is  chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004–2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. He and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.


“The Bible is strikingly candid about human suffering, including the vexing reality that God’s own people suffer—and often suffer excruciatingly and lastingly. Where do we find help? Ligon Duncan, one of the most faithful Christian teachers of our time, takes us deeply into the Psalms in a book that will be of great encouragement to all believers. I am so thankful for Ligon Duncan’s devotion to God’s word and the care of souls. Read this book, and you will understand why.”  ~R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Here is a book that is short enough for the person who is gripped by suffering to actually read, and yet rich enough to meet that individual’s need for perspective and hope in the darkest of times.”  ~Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story

“Ligon Duncan shows us beautifully how, even in our deepest despair, we can have hope in God. We can run to him because he cares and understands. Through this book, Duncan continually lifts our gaze and reminds us that no matter our circumstances, our great God is sympathetic, sovereign, and sufficient. Read this book for yourself, or make it a gift to those struggling in their suffering. Here’s the truth: You are not alone. The Lord knows, and he hears.”  ~Greg Gilbert, Senior Pastor, Third Avenue Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky

“Don’t let the brevity of this book fool you. It is packed with wisdom. Ligon Duncan’s insights from Psalms 88 and 89 are simple and fresh yet at the same time moving and profound. When Pain Is Real and God Seems Silent greatly encouraged me in my own suffering. I’d recommend it to anyone who has felt confused, isolated, or forgotten in their pain and who longs for a hope that endures.”  ~Vaneetha Rendall Risner, author, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

“In the midst of our suffering we need a wake-up call to the truth that God’s steadfast love never ceases. The Psalms are a gentle and real reminder that even in the hardest moments, God is there. Ligon Duncan offers a wonderful companion to two of the most honest psalms in the Bible. He helps us marvel at the beauty and wonder of our God as he is described in these psalms. We’re reminded that our hope can be found only in God. Get out your Bible, read Psalms 88 and 89, and then read this short book. Your heart will be comforted by these truths.”  ~Dave Furman, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Church of Dubai; author, Being There and Kiss the Wave

“With pastoral care and theological precision, Ligon Duncan guides us through Psalms 88 and 89 to help us better understand suffering. When Pain Is Real and God Seems Silent is an honest assessment of life in a fallen world with the hope we have in Christ. In this short and accessible book, Duncan steers clear of trite phrases and clichés and instead provides solid truth that will actually sustain us in trials.”  ~Trillia Newbell, author, If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation

“Psalms of lament are missing in the church and in most believers’ prayers. Ligon Duncan helps us recover this historic language in his careful and thoughtful examination of these two important psalms. Overflowing with pastoral instinct, rich exposition, and helpful application, this short book on Psalms 88 and 89 is long overdue.”  ~Mark Vroegop, Lead Pastor, College Park Church, Indianapolis; author, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament and Weep with Me