Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller - whose books have sold millions of copies to both religious and secular readers - explores one of the most difficult questions we must answer in our lives: Why is there pain and suffering?
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering is the definitive Christian book on why bad things happen and how we should respond to them. The question of why there is pain and suffering in the world has confounded every generation; yet there has not been a major book from a Christian perspective exploring why they exist for many years.
The two classics in this area are When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, which was published more than thirty years ago, and C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, published more than seventy years ago. The great secular book on the subject, Elisabeth Ku¨bler-Ross’s On Death and Dying, was first published in 1969. It’s time for a new understanding and perspective, and who better to tackle this complex subject than Timothy Keller?
As the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Timothy Keller is known for the unique insights he shares, and his series of books has guided countless readers in their spiritual journeys. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering will bring a much-needed, fresh viewpoint on this important issue.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 9 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||October 01, 2013|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #7,782 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#32 in Bible Study
#189 in Christian Bible Study (Books)
#209 in Christian Living (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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To give you an idea, when I read a book I would say I average highlighting anywhere from 25 – 40 things. In this book, I highlighted 160 passages.
Keller starts off the book by telling us why it matters so much, "Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms. If you spend one hour reading this book, more than five children throughout the world will have died from abuse and violence during that time.3 If you give the entire day to reading, more than one hundred children will have died violently. But this is, of course, only one of innumerable forms and modes of suffering. Thousands die from traffic accidents or cancer every hour, and hundreds of thousands learn that their loved ones are suddenly gone. That is comparable to the population of a small city being swept away every day, leaving families and friends devastated in the wake. When enormous numbers of deaths happen in one massive event—such as the 1970 Bhola cyclone in Bangladesh, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, or the 2010 Haiti earthquake—each of which killed 300,000 or more at once—it makes headlines around the world and everyone reels from the devastation. But statistics are misleading. Such historic disasters do not really change the suffering rate. Tens of thousands of people die every day in unexpected tragedies, and hundreds of thousands around them are crushed by grief and shock. The majority of them trigger no headlines because pain and misery is the norm in this world. We are always looking to make some sort of sense out of murder in order to keep it safely at bay: I do not fit the description; I do not live in that town; I would never have gone to that place, known that person. But what happens when there is no description, no place, nobody? Where do we go to find our peace of mind? . . . The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes. Whether it’s exercise, checking our cholesterol or having a mammogram, we are always hedging against mortality. Find out what the profile is, and identify the ways in which you do not fit it. No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic."
With that in mind, here 13 things I learned or was reminded of in this book that I hope will be of encouragement for you:
When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were.
At the heart of why people disbelieve and believe in God, of why people decline and grow in character, of how God becomes less real and more real to us—is suffering. The great theme of the Bible itself is how God brings fullness of joy not just despite but through suffering, just as Jesus saved us not in spite of but because of what he endured on the cross.
the central image of suffering as a fiery furnace. This biblical metaphor is a rich one. Fire is, of course, a well-known image for torment and pain. The Bible calls trials and troubles “walking through fire” (Isa 43:2) or a “fiery ordeal” (1 Pet 4:12). But it also likens suffering to a fiery furnace (1 Pet 1:6–7). The biblical understanding of a furnace is more what we would call a “forge.” Anything with that degree of heat is, of course, a very dangerous and powerful thing. However, if used properly, it does not destroy. Things put into the furnace properly can be shaped, refined, purified, and even beautified. This is a remarkable view of suffering, that if faced and endured with faith, it can in the end only make us better, stronger, and more filled with greatness and joy. Suffering, then, actually can use evil against itself. It can thwart the destructive purposes of evil and bring light and life out of darkness and death.
Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.
Christians don’t face adversity by stoically decreasing our love for the people and things of this world so much as by increasing our love and joy in God.
Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story. Suffering is the result of our turn away from God, and therefore it was the way through which God himself in Jesus Christ came and rescued us for himself. And now it is how we suffer that comprises one of the main ways we become great and Christ-like, holy and happy, and a crucial way we show the world the love and glory of our Savior.
If you have a God infinite and powerful enough for you to be angry at for allowing evil, then you must at the same time have a God infinite enough to have sufficient reasons for allowing that evil.
God is sovereign over suffering and yet, in teaching unique to the Christian faith among the major religions, God also made himself vulnerable and subject to suffering. The other side of the sovereignty of God is the suffering of God himself.
Suffering is painful “at the time” but later yields a harvest.
It is one thing to believe in God but it is quite another thing to trust God.
If you believe in Jesus and you rest in him, then suffering will relate to your character like fire relates to gold.
We should not assume that if we are trusting in God we won’t weep, or feel anger, or feel hopeless.
The way you live now is completely controlled by what you believe about your future.
If you are walking through a difficult season or are struggling to trust God as you look at the pain in our world, this is the one book I’d recommend you read.
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."
Top reviews from other countries
I realize that the question of suffering for some of us is not an academic issue but an intensely painful and hurtful, even overpowering reality. If you are suffering, Christian or not but interested in learning more about the Christian approach to suffering, this is the book for you. Its also written in a very sympathetic and compassionate way. This is a topic to be approached with the greatest sensitivity and kindness.
Keller's book looks at "Why do we suffer?" and then "What should we do when we are suffering?" The book splits into two parts, the longer first addressing the first question and the shorter and particularly strong second half looking at what we should do as Christians when in "the furnace." The furnace comes from the story some of us may remember from Sunday school of three men in ancient Babylon, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. Its in the book of Daniel. They were thrown into the furnace for refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's idol. In the fire Nebuchadnezzar is amazed to see that they have been joined by a fourth person, whom Christians believe was the pre incarnate Jesus Christ. They come out unhurt. But Keller points out that very often Christians don't get rescued from "the furnace." And in fact the three men recognise this as they say to the King that if God wants to save them from suffering and death he can, but he may not. "Even if he doesn't though, King, we are still not going to bow down to the idol." Being a Christian Keller underlines is emphatically not an insurance policy against all the sadness and suffering of life. Many Christians, he argues, are "practical Deists" that is they see God as a divine being whose job it is to meet their needs. Surveys show that many Christians see God owing all but the most villainous people a comfortable life. That is emphatically not what the bible teaches. In fact, Keller points out God may well remove from us his blessings to teach us painfully to love him for his own sake and not what he gives us.
The strongest section is dealing with this in the personal response to suffering. Keller looks at various people in the bible and how they deal with it. Most famously in the oldest and in some ways the most mysterious book in the bible, Job. If you are not so familiar with the story, Job suffers the loss of his entire family and wealth, his health, everything. He was then visited by three friends, so called "comforters" who were worse than useless. They told him his suffering was his own fault. The book is very real in that Job is no "plaster saint" but rages against God and verges on telling God he is wrong. Then in the end of the book God himself speaks to Job essentially saying "I am God and you are not". He then restores Jobs life. Interestingly he doesn't rebuke Job for his profound crying out to God. God invites us to cry to him in our pain.
The reader of Job as Keller points out knows why this evil is fallen on Job - it's the devil who has been allowed by God to make Job suffer. Job himself though is never told that. we will often (though not always - see the story of Joseph) only see how God has used our suffering for his glory when we meet God face to face. The book of Job, Keller points out, therefore rightly points to a complete surrender to Gods sovereignty. This is very important truth but its not enough. For there's more in the New Testament which comes filled with an "an unimaginable comfort for those who are trusting in God. The sovereign God himself has come down into this world and has experience its darkness...He did it not to justify himself but to justify us....so that someday he can return and end all evil without having to condemn us".
Suffering can either drive us to God or away from him. Thinking about, reading about and praying to the Lord Jesus is rightly pointed out by Keller as the way to do the former. The Lord asks us to follow him through the furnace into which he, the only sinless man, voluntarily entered. He will abide with us and bring us out of the other side. He proves to us how much he loves us by suffering for us first. "Herein is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us".
Keller has a great quote which someone once said to him. This is perhaps the best summary of the book."I always knew, in principle, that 'Jesus is all you need' to get through. But you don't really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have". Or, as Keller himself writes the bible does not really answer finally the question as to where suffering comes from. But "for reasons past our finding out, even Christ did not bring salvation and grace apart from infinite suffering on the cross, as he loved us enough to face the suffering with patience and courage, so we must learn to trust in him enough to do the same."
The second part of the book moves from the philosophical to the personal, through examples from the Bible and the third section provides the most practical material. I have yet to read these two sections. Keller says that if you are in the midst of adversity, you may want to read the second and third sections first.
The central metaphor for all three sections is that of the Fiery Furnace, a place where, with skill, matter is refined and made more beautiful and useful, and also, in the Bible, a place where the Son of God was present along with the three men.
The book is academic in format, uses material from a wide range of authors and philosophers as well as from the Bible, and is well-referenced with excellent footnotes BUT at the end of most chapters there is a real life story. These stories, like colourful illustrations, speak directly and almost miraculously of God's presence in the midst of suffering. For someone like me, who has lived most of my life in a secular, materialistic world, these stories offer amazing evidence of God's presence with us in times of suffering. If the book gets too deep, go to the end of one of the chapters and find one of these stories.