Walking with God through Pain and Suffering is the latest book from Timothy Keller, founding and current pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The central theme of the book, which has three parts, is the image of suffering as a fiery furnace. In the Introduction, Pastor Keller suggests that if the reader is in the midst of adversity, it might be better to read the second and third parts first. Part One takes a cultural, historical, and philosophical look at suffering- thus it is more theoretical and abstract.
The author states that three powerful Christian teachings enrich our understanding of suffering and help us face adversity. First, the doctrine of creation and the Fall brings the relief of humility- we’re all sinful and in need of a Savior. The doctrine of the final judgment enables us to be gracious and forgiving, as evil ultimately will accomplish the opposite of what it intended. Finally, through Jesus’ incarnation and atonement, He came down to this world and experienced ultimate darkness- God has wounds.
Furthermore, the Bible’s picture of suffering has two foundational balances: (1) suffering is both just and unjust and (2) God is both a sovereign and a suffering God. This balance affords sufferers a wide range of resources and approaches for facing suffering, an individualized rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Suffering is at the heart of the Christian faith. Through suffering we become like Jesus and experience His redemption. Our walk with God is progressive, intentional, slow, and steady. As we glorify God, we will find rest, satisfaction, and joy in Him.
The joy of the God happens inside our sorrow. In that way our grief won’t sink us. Pastor Keller emphasizes that God give us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He know. Through the Holy Spirit, we can think, thank, and love ourselves into the peace of God- even while experiencing adverse circumstances.