I’m reading Timothy Keller’s book “Walking with God through pain and suffering” and, although only part-way through, would really recommend you read it (– in fact anything by Keller is good!). Gill and Marcelle have recently read it and both found it very helpful.
Future bulletin articles may draw further from this book but in the opening chapters Keller examines how suffering is actually a major challenge to the secular worldview – indeed far greater than any perceived difficulty for Christian belief. The main response of the secular person to suffering is to seek to make the world better, here and now, so as to eliminate it, because “secularism has no other happiness to offer”. Keller refers to an article in the New York Times written following an awful shooting tragedy in 2012 titled “In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent”. Perhaps to the humanist’s annoyance, isn’t it ‘amazing’ how people seem instinctively to turn to God and faith following a tragedy?
Clearly Christians as much as – if not more than – secularists should seek to prevent any particular form of suffering / darkness from happening again. We are not to be passive – and, of course, one of the great testimonies to Christianity has been that Christians have been at the forefront of social reform (e.g. the abolition of the slave trade and the reform of prison conditions).
However, it is our beliefs that offer so much more than anything secular culture can provide. We believe:
- in a personal, wise, infinite and inscrutable God who controls this world – not in blind fate or random chance. He is even able to use pain and suffering to mature us in our walk with Him and to enable us to empathise with and help others;
- that in Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially. So He understands and cares about our suffering;
- that through faith in Jesus we can have assurance of our salvation; and
- in the bodily resurrection from the dead to a world free of suffering, a world of great joy and beauty, for all who believe.
A final thought – Keller writes “As Luther taught, suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.”
Peace and Grace