130 of 137 people found the following review helpful
As someone who has experienced a tremendous amount of loss, grief, pain, and suffering I was excited for Tim's book on suffering to arrive. Tim Keller has also suffered much, and thus speaks with credibility as a fellow sufferer in the journey of life where there are many hills and valleys along the way.
Keller divides the book into three parts based on the biblical metaphor where suffering is described as a "fiery furnace." Fire is an image used throughout the Bible as an image describing the torment and pain of suffering. The Bible speaks frequently of troubles and trials as "walking through the fire," a "fiery ordeal", and a "fiery furnace."
Therefore, Keller builds his themes around this image. In Part One Keller considers the furnace from the outside of us. He tackles "the phenomenon of human suffering, as well as the various ways that different cultures, religions, and eras in history have sought to help people face and get through it [suffering]."
In part two Keller moves away from the theoretical realm and begins to hone in on the personal and character issues that are developed when we suffer. He seeks to demonstrate that the common ways we handle suffering via avoidance, denial, and despair are essentially to waste our suffering. On the other hand, the Bible presents a balanced view in how to handle suffering in a step by step fashion. Biblical truth is always balanced and faces hardships head-on because these are the fires that God uses in our lives to mold our character and make us more like Christ.
Part three is the most practical part of the book. Suffering is actually designed by God to "refine us, not destroy us." Keller explains in this final section how we can can properly orient ourselves toward God in the midst of our suffering so that we walk as Jesus walked in His great suffering.
The best time to read a book on suffering is before you are in the midst of the furnace. Keller recommends that you read sections two and three if you are already in the midst of great suffering. However, the best time to prepare for suffering is before it occurs. Therefore, it would be wise to read this book in the calm before the storm. Christians need to be prepared and develop a theological foundation of suffering before we enter the hot furnaces of life.
Americans seem to suffer more due to the fact that they are even suffering - than because of the suffering in and of itself. Keller wisely shows that suffering is a normal part of living in a fallen world. Life is full of various kinds of sufferings and we will always find ourselves coming into, or coming out of the fires of the furnace. God's promise is that when you "pass through the waters...when you walk through the fire...I will be with you." Jesus faced the ultimate suffering and furnace [the cross] and came through unscathed on our behalf. He was victorious over all the fires that we faced so that we too can be victorious as we face the fires that will come in Him, and with Him by our side.
I highly recommend this book as a wonderful resource that takes seriously the problems and complexities of suffering without watering them down. It is a resource that takes a multidimensional approach to suffering - tackling the internal and external realities - and takes us deep theologically and practically. It is good spiritual food for the mind and soul. Keller also weaves many personal stories of men and women along the way in this journey of suffering that will help you connect to the truths that he is communicating - not just for information, but for transformation.
I believe that God will use this book to powerfully help Christians realize that God has a plan and purpose to bring good out of all of our suffering. Out of each furnace that we enter - though difficult and painful - we will be refined by the fire and come out like gold. We will come out shining like the Son if we learn to trust and depend on His grace before, during, and in the aftermath of our trials. As Keller writes, "In Jesus Christ we see that God actually experiences the pain of the fire as we do. He is truly God with us, in love and understanding, in our anguish. He plunged himself into our furnace so that, when we find ourselves in the fire, we can turn to him and know we will not be consumed but will be made into people great and beautiful."
88 of 95 people found the following review helpful
One of the most difficult questions to answer is: Why is there pain and suffering?
During the course of my on-going earthly journey I have seen a lot of people in pain. And suffering! I have personally experienced what it means to be in pain, and to suffer. A thousand years may come but I'll never forget the pain and suffering my wife went through during the course of her cancer treatment. Neither will I forget the look on her face when the doctor delivered the devastating news that her cancer had recurred. You'll only understand her pointed question, "Doctor, how long will I live?" if you can mentally process her thought. And you'll only understand what it really means to be in pain and suffering if you hold your dying wife in your arms, so desperately fighting for breath to live another second. Pain and suffering means a 3-year-old something daughter pointing to her mother's coffin being lowered, and asking, "Dad, you said heaven is up in the sky, and that mom is going to heaven but why is she being buried?"
I have kept asking myself time, without number, "Why?"
New York Times best-selling author Timothy Keller in his new book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, explores this most difficult subject in his inimitable unique style, sharing deep insights based on the Scripture which should find many takers.
Explaining that the phenomenon of human suffering, as well as the various ways that different cultures, religions, and eras in history have sought to help people face and get through suffering, the author stated that the most common means of handling suffering is denial and despair. He gives a step-by-step biblical method to be adopted to tackle suffering. Pain and suffering should refine us, and should not be allowed to destroy us, he explains. As Christians, we are called to walk as Jesus walked during His suffering!
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller is a must-read book which every care-giver, minister, and others involved in the noble task of comforting the hurting must adopt. The book will not put an end to pain and suffering but it will most certainly help the reader know how to respond and react if pain and suffering do come to visit.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Release Date: October 1, 2013
70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
From such a gloomy and difficult topic as pain and suffering comes a beautiful, even glorious book. This book is not mainly for theologians and seminarians (although they will appreciate it too) but for laypeople and average Christian people--people like me. I am an ordinary Christian who has never really understood or made full sense of the role that pain and suffering was intended to make in my life. This book goes beyond this topic and for me gave meaning to my entire Christian experience in a way that no other book ever has.
I found my reading experience to not be grim and boring (as I expected with such a topic) but intriguing and eventually fascinating because everything I have been taught as a Christian came together and began to make sense. I initially purchased it because I am going through an intensely painful illness and needed some encouragement. This book provided it. It is not light reading, but it is important and meaningful reading; thus I would not recommend it for someone who is grieving so deeply that they cannot focus enough to handle a deep and intense book. But I would recommend it for those who love them.
So much of what the Bible says about suffering is against our Western culture's admonitions and we don't even realize it. As Christians, we have even adopted a lot of these cultural beliefs. This book will pull you back into a Biblical worldview and remind you of what you know to be true.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part of the book gives a background on pain and suffering, a general history of how different cultures--including our culture--views suffering. There is some philosophy in this section, and I found it a tad hard to get through. Persist, reader, as it is worth it! The first part addresses different theodicies (explanations for the problem of evil and suffering) in a systematic and logical way. The second part of the book discusses what the Bible says about suffering and how it teaches us to address it. I found this part very rich--I kept wanting to stop and ponder what I was reading. The last part deals with practical information and Biblical ways of coping with evil, suffering, and pain. It discusses how to walk with God through suffering and how to know His presence when things are hard.
I purchased this book for my Kindle so that I could read it soon after it came out. I ended up buying two hardback copies--one for myself and one as a gift for someone who has turned away from God because of suffering. My friend is still a Christian but has lost the intimacy with God he used to experience; this book will provide the healing he needs, of this I am certain.
I recommend this book for every Christian to read NOW in order to be prepared for suffering and remain faithful. I also recommend it for Christian readers who have loved ones dealing with painful circumstances. I recommend it for non-believers who want to understand why Christians have hope and comfort. To quote from the book: "Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity." So true. Nothing is more important! I recommend this book for its life-changing perspective on faith. The author defines an orthodox, Biblical view of pain, suffering, and hard times; I found sincere relief to finally, finally understand.
Highest recommendation possible.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2013
This book is a great read. I am not a religious person, but really got me interested in learning more about Christianity after reading the book. I like how Timothy also explained different religions and philosophies in regarding to the topic of suffering. The author is very good at expressing his thoughts in a caring way to not just a particular group, but everyone.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2013
Again, Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, has written a masterful tome on the issue of pain and suffering. Maybe this is the most personal of his books in that it includes his own journey through thyroid cancer.
What Keller does masterfully, as those who have sat under his teaching can attest, is throughout the book he fuses together not only thoughtful reflections on the issue, reading a wide scope of authors, and taking us constantly to Christ. Far from a self-help book or a four points to dealing with pain and suffering, Keller has crafted a book that speaks to where people are at yet pointing them to Christ. His books are much like his sermons that identify the problem, our inadequate ways of dealing with it through legalism/moralism or irreligion, and then pointing to Christ.
The book refuses to take a simple approach to the problem. Keller makes it clear that the amount of evil, pain, and suffering in the world is diverse and so should any theodicy. He masterfully takes us not only to the formal or logical problem of evil but the existential problem of evil quoting everyone from CS Lewis to Alvin Plantinga to Simon Veil (by the way, how many Presbyterian pastors do you know who quote a mystic like Veil?) He dips into writers who are not Christian while staying away from Christian writers who simply write about the problem in a popular kind of self-help way.
The book is broken into three sections: Framing the complexity of the problem (philosophical), framing how God redeems evil, pain, and suffering in our lives (theological), and finally our response to the problem (existential). Throughout the book I never got the sense that Keller is advocating a quick "fix it" to the problem. He is clear that some of the "words of comfort" we have offered people during their moments of suffering is at best trite, at worst cruel.
Finally, there is something refreshing about a pastor who has a good understanding of the heart. I was particularly grateful for chapter 15 which demonstrates that good thinking/theology need not be usurped by talk purely about the heart. His challenge to go in to our hearts to evaluate the ordering of our loves was masterful and important for everyone who takes ministry seriously. Not only must we think well but we must have our hearts enlarged.
One last note. It occurred to me that leading with something as "academic" as the philosophical problem (the first section) that evil, pain, and suffering seems to create for the Christian faith can be problematic for readers. The temptation will be to quit early because it seems too academic. Please hang in there. As my prof, JP Moreland used to encourage us in metaphysics, it's ok if you get 50% of it. It will begin to make sense later. In the same way, take heart. The Christian faith provides resources far greater than "just have faith and believe it" because the Christian faith is reasonable. So when you get to the first section, largely what Keller is trying to do is to remove some of the cobwebs from our mind as we have all experienced at least the question how God could exist when we experience so much evil, pain and suffering. Hang in there with the reading! It will pay off in the end!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2013
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."
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.
If you haven't experienced any deep pain and suffering, I would recommend you immediately read Walking with God. Keller 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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2013
This is a very well written book. I think what separates this book from other books on suffering is the practical aspect of it. Timothy Keller deals with the theology, or theodicy of suffering, but he also deals with how we should respond to pain, and use it to our advantage. He responds quite admirably to the classic arguments of the fact of evil, in light of God's existence. Keller emphasizes the fact that if we see trials in light of eternity, we will see suffering and pain as something that can refine us. Also, I thought Keller's focus on the gospel, in relation to suffering was edifying. As well, the focus on Christ's sufferings can show us how we can go through pain in this world. I found this book gave me a fresh, new perspective on walking with God in the shadow of pain and suffering. Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2013
This book gives information you WILL be able to apply to your life. I am impressed with his ability to phrase a point so beautifully....things I have felt but couldn't express or quite grasp.
Suffering will sadly touch us all, there is hope to be found here to find strength and peace through faith.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2014
I admit, I truly enjoy listening to Pastor Keller and some of his books have been real home-runs. This book comes somewhere in the middle. Don't get me wrong, if you are a pastor, counselor, or with a family that is hurting, there is a lot of meat in this book. Keller has nicely divided the book into:
a. Understanding the Furnace
b. Facing the Furnace
C. Walking with God Though the Furnace
The strength of the book is section 2….Facing the Furnace. I felt Parts 1 & 2 were repetitive and often were a bit long-winded in explaining some of the concepts. He even suggests some readers skip to section two if they are already in the midst of sugaring and pain…I think that leaves out a key pillar of understanding.
Overall, it is definitely a good book and I would focus mostly on seeking the depths of section 2. In Section 3 I had hoped to seed some stronger pastoral insights, but it came across with platitudes that we often hear in church. That does not make them wrong but as a strong theological, this could have broken some new ground in our walk with God. If the book were about 90 pages shorter it might have been more succinct in the thinking.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Mention the word suffering, evil or any other words and you are likely to get some very interesting and contradictory statements. The Christian has a suffering Lord who lived and breathed from birth till his early 30’s but never sinned, died a bloody death, rose from the grave thus defeating death and the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father. While many people view suffering in the wrong way in contemporary culture and in the Church—recently Dr. Tim Keller wrote Walking with God through Pain and Suffering what I consider to be one of the finest treatments on the topic of suffering I’ve read.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering is broken into three parts. Part one explores understanding the furnace in four chapters. Chapter one examines the culture of suffering, chapter two the victory of Christianity, chapter three the challenge to the secular. The section concludes with looking at the problem of evil. Section two is titled facing the furnace. Here Keller in six chapters looks a t the challenge to faith, the sovereignty of God, the suffering of god, the reason for suffering, learning to walk and the varieties of suffering. The book concludes by looking at what it means to walk with God in the furnace through weeping, trusting, praying, thinking, thanking, loving, and hoping.
In seminary I wrote a research paper on the topic of suffering from the book of Job. In that paper I examined what people in our culture have said about suffering in addition to what has been said by respected leaders in evangelicalism. What I wish I had when I was working through this issue in seminary is a book like Walking with God through Pain and Suffering one that zooms out to look at how our culture approaches and deals with the topic of suffering, how the Church has handled these questions and how to grow through suffering. It is precisely because this book engages the culture’s view, what the Church has said, what the Bible teaches and why this issue is important for the Christian that Walking with God through Pain and Suffering is such an important contribution to the literature on suffering. Most books on this topic excel in one or two areas (culture of Scripture) but this book excels at them all and brings together the best scholarship to bear in one book. In my humble opinion this is Dr. Keller’s most important book because questions of suffering touch everyone—whether they are Christian or not.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering was a timely and important for me at this point in my life. My dad recently came back into my life a year and a half ago after six and a half years away from my family and I. He came back with frontal temporal dementia which will erode his brain and inhibit his ability to function as he gets older. While I’ve thought and read about the issue of suffering a lot over the years, in recent days I’ve been thinking a lot more about the topic of suffering. This is why I appreciate Walking with God so much because the author takes us deep into this topic but does so with a view to fidelity to the Word of God so that the reader will understand what the Gospel says about these topics. In classic Keller fashion, he makes much of Jesus while guiding his readers through the various arguments our culture makes about the topic all to expose our heart and minds to the truth of the Word of God. For this and many others reasons Walking with God through Pain and Suffering is one of the most important books of the year and is going in my top five books that I read this year.