4 Stars Out Of 5
Keller provides a good understanding of pain
October 20, 2014
Timothy Keller is my favourite celebrity pastor. His writing is clear, crisp and culturally engaged. Having spent over two decades in New York City pastoring Redeemer Presbyterian, Kellers analysis of pain and suffering weave the insights from leading philosophers (Simone Weil) and psychologists (Jonathan Haidt) throughout. The first part of the book is based around providing a philosophical and theoretical foundation for examining pain and suffering. The second portion attempts to offer explanations for and examination of, the various forms of suffering. The last section looks at how believers can actually apply the Bibles teaching to their suffering.
A common complaint of C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain is that it is too theoretical and not very applicable. The same criticism can be leveled at this book. The strength of this book is Kellers engagement with the different episodes of suffering found throughout the Bible. He takes an in-depth look at the lives of Joseph, Job and Jesus in order to demonstrate how each of them dealt with the pain in their lives. Keller acknowledges the pain and grief are excruciating and that not everyone in the midst of suffering will react to the same prescriptive remedies and treatments. Thus, he avoids spending too much time on providing specific ways to help people in pain, although in the third section of the book, he does offer some general suggestions, such as allowing oneself to lament, place trust in God and pray to Him. He follows in the same line as Lewis; Keller tells us to keep living in obedience to God, through reading Scripture, praying, participating in fellowship, and eventually we will feel Gods presence.
On pg. 274, Keller claims that it is not until we are in the grips of grief and pain where our love for God will be proved genuine. Before this, Keller states, we may be worshiping God for what He provides us, we give Him mercenary love. This may be disconcerting, especially for those of us who, by Gods grace, have been able to avoid trauma and tragedy in our lives. I agree with Keller that when we suffer affliction or adversity, it allows our trust and confidence in God to show, but I would also add that in times of dry spells, when we feel as if God is distant and mute to us, is another way we know God and demonstrate our devotion to Him because our continued belief in Him, even if He seems remote, is also evidence that we continually trust and worship Him.
Kellers book is an important one. EVERYONE will have to face suffering someday and Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering will provide every Christian with helpful guidance and Biblical truth in how to deal with affliction.