suffering, sickness, pain, death.
we are unprepared.
I started reading this book in 2013. At that point, I’d read a number of books about suffering. Many of them gave great suggestions for how, as a Christian, I should respond to suffering, but none of them really helped me understand my anger toward God. This book did. It was so comprehensive! I appreciate that Keller, in most of his books, starts by breaking down worldviews – the lens through which we interpret the world. It helped me to understand WHY I was so angry, because the modern American stance toward suffering is one of avoiding it at all costs. Our only response to suffering is one of shock and anger. I’m probably not paraphrasing this well – I read the first section 18 months ago – but this helped SO MUCH. I was finally able to understand, and accept, and eventually get over, my anger.
[For the curious: I’ve had persistent double vision – monocular diplopia in both eyes, which means, I kid you not, I see double even with one eye closed – since the fall of 2011. I haven’t discussed it much here on the blog, at first because I was in distress, then because I assumed it would end and I’d be able to look back on it and process, and now because it’s such a normal part of my life that I forget to bring it up.]
This book isn’t just for those who are suffering. Actually, let me quote from the book’s introduction. (It’s what won me over in the first place.)
So is this a book for sufferers? Yes, but we must make some distinctions. We are all sufferers, or we will be. But not all of us are currently in an experience of deep pain and grief. Those who are not feeling it, but are seeing it in others, will have a host of philosophical, social, phychological, and moral questions about it. On the other hand, those who are in the grip of pain and difficulty now cannot treat it as a philosophical issue.
He breaks the book into three parts: one looks at “the problem of evil,” one pulls together all of the themes and teachings about pain and suffering in the Bible, and a final series of meditations designed to help actual sufferers in the midst of their grief. (Keller recommends that anyone in the midst of suffering starts with the second section.)
I think every Christian should read this book, and any non-Christian who wonders what the Bible says about suffering.