I remember once being asked by a person with a physical disability, “Did God do this to me?”
My answer was quick and single-minded. “No! God didn’t do this to you. He grieves with you.”
…As I thought about that conversation though, I wasn’t so sure about my answer. Had I given the right one? How could I know what God had done for certain?
I’ve always been interested in just how “in control” of events God is, and I’ve spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and changing my mind. In recent years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know,” and living within the tension of what I do know of God. That in mind, Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering has to be the best, most comprehensive book on the subject of suffering that I’ve ever read. Timothy Keller (who has at this point become the most influential author in my life) has written a nuanced, empathetic and profoundly biblical book which has become my go-to on the subject. I’ve already started recommending it.
Keller’s refreshing suggestion is that while certain theodicies (systems which attempt to make sense of the question of why God allows suffering) can be helpful, overall none is totally sufficient. In fact, Keller believes we should not try to formulate theodicies, but instead mount a defence of God’s goodness, and show that the argument against God from evil is not a consistent one (p95).
What I like about Keller’s position, is that he advocates a complete and childlike trust in God, even when situations go beyond our understanding. He writes, “Three-year-olds cannot understand most of why their parents allow and disallow what they do. But though they aren’t capable of comprehending their parents’ reasons, they are capable of knowing their parents’ love and therefore are capable of trusting them and living securely. That is what they really need. Now, the difference between God and human beings is infinitely greater than the difference between a thirty-year-old parent and their three-year-old child. So we should not expect to be able to grasp all of God’s purposes, but through the cross and gospel of Jesus Christ, we can know his love. And that is what we need most.” (p122). Continue reading