apologetics

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Everyone suffers. And yet perhaps because of the age in which we live, there have been few cultures that have struggled more with suffering than ours. I’m currently reading a popular book on loss and I’m struck by how vapid the wisdom of our age is in the face of suffering.

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is, quite simply, the best book on suffering that I’ve read. Keller deals with the subject philosophically, theologically, and practically. Each treatment is successful on its own, and combined they pack a unique punch as Keller engages mind and heart alike.

Timothy Keller is such a unique author. His books range from the incredibly accessible: The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods, to the slightly more rigorous, but still very accessible apologetic, The Reason for God, to the more rigorous practitioner’s guides such as Generous Justice or Preaching. Part of Timothy Keller’s unique gifting is his ability to write so well in each of these genres. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is the most rigorous book by Keller to date and yet the book is every bit as well written as any of his best.

Contemporary westerners are repelled by suffering and death. On the stage of world history, our fear of death is abnormal. Keller quotes an author at The New York Times Magazine, who, after the tragic sniper shootings in the Washington DC area reflected, “The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes. Whether it’s exercise, checking our cholesterol or having a mammogram, we are always hedging against mortality. [And yet] despite our best intentions, it is still, for the most part, random. And it is absolutely coming.”[i] This aversion to suffering and death is a cultural blind spot and means that we naturally approach the topic with naiveté.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Always Looking, Never Wanting to Find: Mark Loughridge considers a reality for us in our cultural moment, "It’s cool to search for God, but uncool to find him. People talk about wanting to find spiritual reality and deeper meaning, about wanting to get in touch with God. The idea of looking for him sounds good—the search, the journey—but the reality of actually finding him is too much."

2.       Ordinary Beauty: Melissa Edgington shares an ordinary story of God's grace, "At the cash register stood a young girl with a nose ring. Her hair was pulled back, but long blonde ringlets framed her face. There is no telling how many hours she had been on her feet in that store, but still she smiled and asked how my night was going. And then, while I fished in my gigantic black hole of a purse for my wallet, she told me that I look pretty tonight. Just like that. She handed me that grace. That generous gift to a tired mama who almost certainly doesn’t look pretty tonight. And I was surprised by how shocked I was."

3.       Accept Your Leadership: Tim Challies with a call to men, "Your family needs to be led. Your wife and children need you to be the leader God calls you to be. He calls you to lead in love, to study the life and character of Jesus Christ, and to imitate him. Do that and God will be pleased. Do that and your family will be blessed. Run to win by accepting and embracing your leadership."

4.    When Should a Church Address a Current Event: In light of the recent outbreak of racist events, Trevin Wax processes whether or not a church ought to publicly address a given issue. He begins by sharing the online response from a certain quarter regarding the Charlottesville protest, "On social media, multiple people counseled churches on how to respond the next morning. Some called for condemning white supremacy and Neo-Nazis by name. Others offered prayer for pastors who were revising their sermons or penning statements to read before the church. This sentiment popped up a few times: If your church doesn't address this tomorrow, find another congregation. The social media fever implied that failing to speak on the issue indicated you were taking the side of white supremacists."

5.       Is that Hate Speech? I encourage you to take this New York Times baffling quiz on what and what does not qualify as hate speech on Facebook.