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.       3-2-1 Animated Gospel Presentation: A simple five and a half minute gospel presentation by Glen Scrivener. It is clear, thorough, and compelling. I encourage you to watch it and consider using it yourself. 

2.       Why the Internet will Strengthen, Not Hurt the Church: Paul Alexander reflects that "When YouVersion launched there were 12 versions of the Bible available in 2 languages. Today there are more than 1,200 versions of the Bible available in more than 900 languages! YouVersion is working to make God’s Word available to every person on Earth, no matter where they live or what language they prefer."

3.       7 Things Evil is Not: What the Death of My Son Taught Me: This weighty piece by Khaldoun Sweis is worth reading whether you are struggling with suffering or in a time of peace. He shares, "I held my son Enoch’s little hand as he died, and went through a suffering that no words could express. A perpetually wounded heart that would not mend, a broken body for which there is no antidote, or a destroyed home that can never be the same…There are more books and articles on this topic than any other in theology. But because it is so personal, we need to be reminded of the simple truths about it."

4.       Lies About Cultural Awareness: Jared Olivetti, over at Gentle Reformation, elaborates on these four lies: Lie #1 – You can understand a complex subject in a very brief time; Lie #2 – You should understand as many complex subjects as possible; Lie #3 – Your opinion on those many and complex subjects is valid; Lie #4 – You are angry at all the right things. 

5.       Does "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" really belong in the Bible? Paul Carter with an excellent reflection on one of the most difficult passages in the Bible, Psalm 137. "They say that the Book of Psalms was the songbook of the early church – but how could anyone who knows and loves Jesus read or sing – let alone pray a sentence like that? We were told to love our enemies; we were told to turn the other cheek – how in the world does this go with that?"