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When the Stars Disappear: Help and Hope from Stories of Suffering in Scripture (Talbot)

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When suffering overwhelms us, it is easy to despair and even doubt God’s goodness. As the clouds of suffering roll in, we can lose sight of everything but our pain. In these moments, when the stars disappear, we must turn to Scripture to find assurance that God can and will carry us through. In this book, Mark Talbot recounts the suffering of some of the Bible’s greatest saints. They show us what it means to remain faithful and hopeful through life’s darkest times—and thus help us cling to God’s sure promise that he will never leave us or forsake us but will be with us and sustain us until the storms subside and the stars reappear.


Table of Contents: 

  1. When the Stars Disappear
  2. Suffering Saints: God’s People May Suffer Terribly
  3. Breathing Lessons: How to Survive Great Suffering
  4. The Rest of Their Stories: God’s Steadfast Love for Naomi, Job, and Jeremiah

Epilogue: Living within the Full Christian Story



Mark Talbot (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is associate professor of philosophy at Wheaton College. His areas of expertise include philosophical psychology, philosophical theology, David Hume, Augustine, and Jonathan Edwards. He and his wife, Cindy, have one daughter and three grandchildren. Mark attends Christ Presbyterian Church in Roselle, Illinois.


“Talbot’s experience of suffering gives him a heart of empathy for anyone who struggles to understand the hard ways of God. His rigor as a Christian philosopher equips him to voice the most disturbing questions we have about human pain without minimizing their difficulty or giving in to despair. Talbot uses stories from Scripture to offer the clear practical and theological guidance that suffering believers need to move forward in hope. This beautiful book will comfort readers with the assurance that we are never alone in our suffering but sustained by our ever-loving Savior.” - Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

“Books offering palliatives to the problem of pain are ten a penny. But this splendid study is different. It is a careful, spiritual, sensitive treatment that does not shirk the emotional and imaginative dimensions of our lives. More importantly, it has to do with human expectations: Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Talbot sets a high standard of fidelity to Scripture as he considers three Old Testament figures—Naomi, Job and Jeremiah—and the New Testament passages that follow in that vein. So here Talbot is paying particular attention to suffering and the Christian life. This is not a purely theoretical approach to the issues, though it is very thoughtfully written. The discerning reader will have his appetite whetted for the other studies to follow. Unreservedly recommended.” - Paul Helm, Former Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, King’s College London

“If you are a Christian who is experiencing suffering—or who is weighed down by the suffering of someone you love—then this book is for you. Talbot—a philosopher-theologian who is also a wheelchair-bound, chronic sufferer—knows what he is talking about. He offers profound, biblical reflections that do not dodge the hard questions or try to minimize the sometimes overpowering reality of pain and loss. When the Stars Disappear is a gift to every Christian who is hoping for a reason to hope.” - Timothy Larsen, McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College

“Through decades of quadriplegia and chronic pain, the Bible has been my source of great comfort and encouragement. And I don’t mean only the Psalms or verses about affliction. For me, it’s been the stories of godly men and women in the Bible who radiate courage and perseverance despite unthinkable suffering. I have learned how to trust God from their examples, even when painful challenges try to drag me down. It’s why I love this new book, When the Stars Disappear. Mark Talbot gives the reader a remarkable study of suffering saints and how their mistakes and victories teach us lessons of endurance. I highly recommend this stellar discussion of true Bible stories that will inspire and refresh your heart!” - Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

When the Stars Disappear leads us through a deep, sobering, and powerful encounter with the depths of suffering experienced by three pivotal Old Testament figures. To those who suffer, it offers new hope, comfort, and insight into how to understand and endure such trials with biblically rooted and wise instruction regarding the indwelling grace of God and the ultimate outcome of our journeys. Talbot’s unique combination of wisdom, pastoral discernment, biblical fluency, and philosophical and theological mastery combines with his long personal experience of suffering to inform this unique work.” - Stanton L. Jones, Provost Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Wheaton College

“I can think of no better way to ask hard questions about the suffering of believers than by delving into the words and stories of Scripture. In this first of four volumes, Talbot dives in deep. He sets the reality of personal, painful experience in the sure context of God’s revelation, which not only fully acknowledges Christians’ suffering but also lights up hope in God, ultimately through his Son.” - Kathleen Nielson, author; speaker; Senior Adviser, The Gospel Coalition

“Writing from the depths of his own experience, thorough understanding of philosophical issues surrounding the theme of theodicy, and careful reading of Scripture, Mark Talbot offers a superb study for people walking through the valley of deepest darkness and for those who function as the Lord’s wings to those in distress (Ruth 2:12). With keen insight, an engaging literary style, and a deep commitment to the authority of the Scriptures, Talbot presents a powerful, practical, and pastoral treatment of a subject that we all encounter at some point in life.” - Daniel I. Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Wheaton College; author, The Triumph of Grace and For the Glory of God

“In the face of radical suffering, words often cannot do justice to the gravity of the situation, but sometimes they help us climb through our grief and hold onto the God who has not yet made manifest why such profound suffering surrounds us and happens to us. In this profound and poignant volume, Mark Talbot takes us on a terrifying journey into the depths of suffering to make sure we are brutally honest with it, and to help us understand that our very souls are at stake in clinging to the graciousness of God. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is for everyone whose lives have been scorched by suffering and do not want to give up.” - Richard Lints, Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Provost Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Talbot’s unique blend of careful scholarship and distinctively Christian faith and hope are evidenced throughout When the Stars Disappear, which serves as a reliable guide and companion to those who have faced calamity. Through Talbot’s faithful biblical exegesis and practical theological application, this book is a gift to the church.” - Mark A. Yarhouse, Dr. Arthur P. Rech and Mrs. Jean May Rech Endowed Chair in Psychology, Wheaton College

“Anyone who has suffered, regardless of how much, should read this book. It ministered to me. We are reminded to be honest with God in prayer about how we feel about our suffering by, for example, asking God questions like the suffering psalmists do. But then Talbot places our suffering within Scripture’s overall storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation, reminding us always to try to understand how God is using our suffering to fulfill that storyline. He explains how our suffering helps us better understand our relationship to Christ and his suffering. By continually going to Scripture, he shows us how saints such as Naomi, Job, and Jeremiah worked through their suffering and came to ultimate trust and hope in God about it.” - G. K. Beale, J. Gresham Machen Professor of New Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Many and varied are the books that wrestle with suffering and evil, but in his projected four volumes on the subject Mark Talbot has found some fresh approaches. In this first volume he avoids philosophical and abstract questions, but focuses close attention on a handful of people in the Bible who went through suffering. Their suffering was highly diverse: Naomi, Job, Jeremiah, and some of the psalmists. By leading us through their darkest hours, Talbot lends a personal realism to their sorrow while showing that God often provides life-transforming grace to his suffering people in the midst of their pain, rather than simply taking it all away as fast as possible.” - D. A. Carson, Theologian-at-Large, The Gospel Coalition