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Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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As Keller notes, no one is immune to pain and suffering. No matter how hard we work to remain healthy and maintain strong relationships with family and friends and at work, “something will inevitably ruin it,” he writes. “Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage.” To avoid falling into despair, we need spiritual support. After all, the great theme of the Bible is how God brings joy through suffering. This insightful book offers hard-earned advice on how to accept and ultimately transcend the pain. First, Keller examines human suffering through the ages and the ways that different cultures and religions have coped. Next, he discusses what the Bible says about suffering. Finally, he offers practical advice on how to live through it. He discusses the problem of evil, the reasons for suffering, the varieties of suffering, and the necessity of hope. A luminous and ultimately hopeful examination of the many aspects of suffering. --June Sawyers
Praise for Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
“It has something for everyone—something for the agnostic (Keller makes a strong argument that there are no true atheists); something for the philosopher (although he invites the wounded reader to skip that section); and something for the believer being beckoned into the inner sanctum of sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (a place no one naturally wants to go).” - The Gospel Coalition
"It is a resource that takes a multidimensional approach to suffering - tackling the internal and external realities - and takes us deep theologically and practically." - Vertical Living Ministries
"A luminous and ultimately hopeful examination of the many aspects of suffering." - Booklist
Praise for Timothy Keller and his other books
"Tim Keller's ministry in New York City is leading a generation of seekers and skeptics toward belief in God. I thank God for him." – Billy Graham
“Unlike most suburban megachurches, much of Redeemer is remarkably traditional. What is not traditional is Dr. Keller’s skill in speaking the language of his urbane audience…Observing Dr. Keller’s professorial pose on stage, it is easy to understand his appeal.” – The New York Times
“Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.” – Christianity Today
“With intellectual, brimstone-free sermons that manage to cite Woody Allen alongside Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Keller draws some 5,000 young followers every Sunday. Church leaders see him as a model of how to evangelize urban centers across the country, and Keller has helped ‘plant’ 50 gospel-based Christian churches around New York plus another 50 from San Francisco to London.” – New York Magazine
“This is the book I give to all my friends who are serious spiritual seekers or skeptics.” – Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, on The Reason for God
“Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. Written for skeptics and the believers who love them, the book draws on the author's encounters as founding pastor of New York's booming Redeemer Presbyterian Church…[The Reason for God] should serve both as testimony to the author's encyclopedic learning and as a compelling overview of the current debate on faith for those who doubt and for those who want to reevaluate what they believe, and why.” – Publishers Weekly on The Reason for God
“World has briefly reviewed about 200 books over the past year. Many stand out, but one in particular is likely to change many lives and ways of thinking. World’s Book of the Year is Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. ” – Marvin Olasky on The Reason for God
“It’s a great resource to equip you to speak with your secular friends; to show them why the Christian understanding of marriage is not only a tremendous blessing, it’s the only one that works.” – ChristianPost.com on The Meaning of Marriage
“The Meaning of Marriage is incredibly rich with wisdom and insight that will leave the reader, whether single or married, feeling uplifted. While the book is filled with expertly selected biblical verses, nonreligious readers willing to ‘try on’ these observations may find answers not only to the meaning of marriage but to that even bigger question—the meaning of life itself.” – The Washington Times on The Meaning of Marriage
“Theologically rich and philosophically informed, yet accessible and filled with practical wisdom.” – Comment Magazine on Every Good Endeavor
“This book is for us all and through its reading it can change and reshape your entire outlook on your life.” – Sarah Macintosh on Every Good Endeavor
Top customer reviews
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."
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.