Review: Timothy Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

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10 out of 10 Stars
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton
Reading Level: Moderate

Timothy Keller wades into the depths of the human experience with Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. It’s a book that “take[s] life seriously . . . [and] want[s] to help readers live life well and even joyfully against the background of these terrible realities [of pain and suffering].” He does this by pointing out Jesus Himself experienced suffering and pain. He shows how other worldviews attempt to address the concepts of pain and suffering but are bankrupt.

Walking with God is a full blown treatment on pain and suffering. There are some excellent books that tackle the philosophical questions, the theological foundations, and the devotional approach, but very few do all of these well within a framework the average person could find useful. Keller has combined all of these into a single volume. He doesn’t side step the tough questions. He doesn’t avoid the hard passages. He doesn’t sugar coat suffering. He drops his head, squares his shoulders, and runs straight for them. Central to holding these approaches together is the image of “fiery furnace”--seeing suffering as something we all experience and which, from the biblical perspective, refines us. Keller says it does so because Jesus suffers. He is our trailblazer even in this regard. “In Jesus Christ we see that God actually experiences the pain of the fire as we do. He truly is God with us, in love and understanding, in our anguish.”

Tweet This: “In Jesus Christ we see that God actually experiences the pain of the fire as we do. He truly is God with us, in love and understanding, in our anguish.”

One of the highlights is Keller’s critique of our culture’s immanent frame where we’ve assumed the approach of the Deists. They say the personal God cannot also be the good and powerful God who created a world where suffering exists. They say we can see no good reason for suffering so there must not be. He also says America now largely has this framework to blame for our failures in dealing with suffering. We medicate, avoid, and cope, but we do not suffer well. He suggests that just because we cannot see a good reason doesn’t mean God doesn’t have one. At one point, he uses the image of a surgeon causing pain to heal. I think it’s a helpful image. Imagine waking up from a coma with memory gone and finding yourself under the knife. You would wonder why this person is causing you such immense pain. You only later come to find out he is a doctor who saved your life from some injury. Likewise, he find we are in a world filled with pain and suffering and we read Scripture and find out God is sovereign. Why then all this pain and suffering? It must be enough now to know God loves, cares, and is sovereign. We mustn’t strive too hard to relieve the tension. The gospel thrives in that tension. Jesus died in that tension. As Peter said in his Acts two sermon Jesus was delivered according to God’s definite plan but carried out in sin by individuals. I appreciate Keller not trying to answering all the why’s of suffering, but instead pointing to Jesus Christ as our hope.

See Also: N. T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God (buy) and Tullian Tchividjian’s Glorious Ruin (buy)

If you haven’t experienced any deep pain and suffering, I would recommend you immediately read Walking with GodKeller will prepare you to walk with God when (not if) the suffering comes. If you lay your foundation now, you will endure when the storm hits. If you are in the midst of suffering, Walking with God will still help you. There are stories with most chapters of others who have suffered. Keller shares some of his own suffering. He also points you to Jesus Christ. For those whose wounds are still raw, Keller recommends skipping the philosophy in part one and jumping straight into the second and third parts. He also points out throughout the book that not all of us suffer the same. Not all wounds are healed with the same words. Sometimes things that are true aren’t helpful in the midst of suffering. Wise advice from someone he cares.Wise advice from someone who has walked with God through the fire.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”