The best books on finding hope and comfort in difficult times

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe the Bible is God’s Word, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and that he loves us. But after enduring years of physical, mental, and emotional pain, special needs in one of our children, two job losses, and a degenerative ankle, I’ve struggled to understand why he’s allowed it. Over the years, God has been teaching me that there is more to our suffering than meets the eye. And what we see as pointless, God promises to redeem and use for his good purposes. As I’ve grown to trust Jesus, he’s changed me, and given me comfort, hope, and joy in the midst of my sorrows. 


I wrote...

Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Your Suffering

By Kristen Wetherell, Sarah Walton,

Book cover of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Your Suffering

What is my book about?

Sarah and Kristen have walked through, and are walking in, difficult times. So these thirty biblical reflections are full of realism about the hurts of life—yet overwhelmingly full of hope about the God who gives life.

This book will gently encourage and greatly help anyone who is struggling with suffering—whether physical, emotional, or psychological, and whether for a season or for longer. It is a book to buy for yourself or to buy for a member of your church or friend. For anyone who is hurting, this book will give hope, not just for life beyond the suffering, but for life in the suffering. Each chapter contains a biblical reflection, with questions and prayers, and a space for journaling.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Beside Still Waters: Words of Comfort for the Soul

Sarah Walton Why did I love this book?

Over the past 15 years, I’ve walked through layers and layers of trials – including chronic illness in myself and all four of my children, special needs in one of our kids, a degenerative ankle that has led to six ankle surgeries, depression, and several seasons of financial struggle. During times when I haven’t had much capacity to read in large chunks, I have found Beside Still Waters to be a comfort and encouragement. Charles Spurgeon writes with profound insight and eloquence, but in a down-to-earth way.

By Charles H. Spurgeon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beside Still Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of Scripture-based readings that offer encouragement to individuals dealing with illness, loss, or other personal problems.


Book cover of The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Sarah Walton Why did I love this book?

Between suffering from polio as a child, post-polio syndrome as an adult, betrayal, the loss of a son, and a husband who left soon after – Vaneetha Risner has endured unimaginable suffering. For that reason, her honest words about suffering have left an incredible impact on me as I’ve endured my own. She doesn’t “preach” to us as if we need to get our act together, but she writes with compassion, honesty, and comfort as one who’s been there. Despite having every reason to be angry and bitter at the people who have hurt her and God himself, she is full of wisdom, grace, and joy, and shares about the hope she has that has enabled her to endure. 

By Vaneetha Risner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scars That Have Shaped Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner begged God for grace that would deliver her. But God offered something better: his sustaining grace.

In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.

“Vaneetha writes with creativity, biblical faithfulness, compelling…


Book cover of Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Sarah Walton Why did I love this book?

Sometimes life doesn’t go as we’d hoped or expected; sometimes it’s filled with layers of difficulty and struggle, and sometimes it’s flipped upside down with tragedy. And I’ve experienced all three. Out of nowhere, death, illness, job loss, etc, can change our lives and challenge our view of God, ourselves, and the world. But despite all the pain, confusion, and disappointment, we have hope.

Paul David Tripp wrote with personal experience about how we can learn to trust God in the midst of suffering. He’s helped me cling to God's promises in my trials, face my pain with honesty, and persevere with the hope of the gospel.

By Paul David Tripp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Suffering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best-selling author Paul David Tripp weaves together his personal story, years of counseling experience, and biblical insights to help us in the midst of suffering, identifying 6 traps to avoid and 6 comforts to embrace.


Book cover of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament

Sarah Walton Why did I love this book?

Sometimes the pain of our suffering is multiplied because those around us act as though grieving is a sign of weakness and lack of faith. Although we live in a world with many wonderful things, we will all experience suffering at some point. And trying to numb or avoid our pain doesn’t make our hurt and grief disappear. For that reason, I’ve been helped and encouraged by Mark Vroegop’s book because it teaches us to lament, which is acknowledging our grief and pain to God, giving ourselves the space and time to grieve while holding onto hope at the same time.

By Mark Vroegop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book seeks to restore the lost art of lament in order to help readers discover the power of honest wrestling with the questions that come with grief and suffering.


Book cover of Suffering Is Never for Nothing

Sarah Walton Why did I love this book?

Elisabeth Elliot knows pain. She lost her first husband, Jim Elliot, when he and other missionary husbands were murdered by the tribe of people they were trying to reach. With incredible tenacity and bravery, Elisabeth continued to reach out to the tribe who killed her husband and ended up living among them and helping translate the bible into their language. In addition to that, she also lost her second husband to cancer. Despite all of that, she has offered the hope of Jesus to countless people – including myself. And the profound wisdom that she’s gained through unimaginable suffering has been such a gift to me as I’ve struggled to understand the purposes of my own pain. 

By Elisabeth Elliot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Suffering Is Never for Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.

Elisabeth Elliot was no stranger to suffering. Her first husband, Jim, was murdered by the Waoroni people in Ecuador moments after he arrived in hopes of sharing the gospel. Her second husband was lost to cancer. Yet, it was in her deepest suffering that she learned the deepest lessons about God.

Why doesn’t God do something about suffering? He has, He did, He is, and He will.…


You might also like...

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope…

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


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