Tim Keller: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering: The Christian hope.

keller suffering

As we looked at Job over the Summer I read a number of books on suffering. One of the most helpful was Tim Keller’s book; “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” https://www.10ofthose.com/uk/products/19793/walking-with-god-through-pain

The book is divided into three:
• The philosophical perspective where he argues that the Christian faith gives the greatest resources to cope with suffering, and indeed grow through it.
• The theological perspective: what the Bible teaches us to help us in suffering.
• The pastoral, practical perspective: “how do we actually walk with God through these times?”

In the wonderful, and very personal, last chapter he writes about the hope Christian’s have that sustains them. John writes the book of Revelation to a suffering people in order that they might endure in their faith. Keller writes:
“And what did John give them so they could face it all? John gave them the ultimate hope-a new heavens and a new earth that was coming. That is what he gave them to face it, and it is a simple fact of history that it worked. We know that the early Christians took their suffering with great poise and peace and they sang hymns as the beasts were tearing them apart and they forgave the people who were killing them. And so the more they were killed, the more the Christian movement grew. Why? Because when people watched Christians dying like that, they said, “These people have got something.” Well, do you know what they had? They had this. It is a living hope.” Page 314.

And then from pages 317-319:
“But how can we be sure this future is for us? The answer is-you can be sure if you believe in Jesus, who took what we deserve so we could have the heaven and the glory he deserved. Donald Grey Barnhouse, who was a pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for many years, lost his wife when his daughter was still a child. Dr. Barnhouse was trying to help his little girl, and himself, process the loss of his wife and her mother. Once when they were driving, a huge moving van passed them. As it passed, the shadow of the truck swept over the car. The minister had a thought. He said something like this, “Would you rather be run over by a truck, or by its shadow?” His daughter replied, “By the shadow of course. That can’t hurt us at all.” Dr. Barnhouse replied, “Right. If the truck doesn’t hit you, but only its shadow, then you are fine. Well, it was only the shadow of death that went over your mother. She’s actually alive-more alive than we are. And that’s because two thousand years ago, the real truck of death hit Jesus. And because death crushed Jesus, and we believe in him, now the only thing that can come over us is the shadow of death, and the shadow of death is but my entrance into glory.”?”
We sing that song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and the last line of the last stanza is “made like him, like him we rise; ours the cross, the grave, the skies.” What does that mean? It’s almost like a taunt. It’s like saying, “Come on, crosses, the lower you lay me, the higher you will raise me! Come on, grave, kill me and all you will do is make me better than before!” If the death of Jesus Christ happened for us and he bore our hopelessness so that now we can have hope-and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ happened-then even the worst things will turn into the best things, and the greatest are yet to come.
There have not been many times in my life when I felt “the peace that passes understanding.” But there was one time for which I am very grateful, and it stemmed from this great Christian hope. It was just before my cancer surgery. My thyroid was about to be removed, and after that, I faced a treatment with radioactive iodine to destroy any residual cancerous thyroid tissue in my body. Of course my whole family and I were shaken by it all, and deeply anxious. On the morning of my surgery, after I said my good-byes to my wife and sons, I was wheeled into a room to be prepped. And in the moments before they gave me the anesthetic, I prayed. To my surprise, I got a sudden, clear new perspective on everything. It seemed to me that the universe was an enormous realm of joy, mirth, and high beauty. Of course it was-didn’t the Triune God make it to be filled with his own boundless joy, wisdom, love, and delight? And within this great globe of glory was only one little speck of darkness-our world-where there was temporarily pain and suffering. But it was only one speck, and soon that speck would fade away and everything would be light. And I thought, “It doesn’t really matter how the surgery goes. Everything will be all right. Me-my wife, my children, my church-will all be all right.” I went to sleep with a bright peace on my heart.
C. S. Lewis wrote:
For if we take the Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling’ with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in. ‘When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.”

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