We are looking this very important subject which is the title of a powerfully helpful book by Tim Keller. I personally have had to think much more deeply about suffering following the recent death of my dear friend Bunty (Abhishek Banerjee) in March 2014.

Below is  a very short 2 minute video about pain and suffering by Tim Keller. Although it is short it has some very important points to make and reflect on:

[youtube id=”XQKhlncTwvQ”]

The following are some of the sobering truths we have to continually remind ourselves of if we are going to live life to the full and minimise our regrets:

1. Because suffering is inevitable (see previous post), there can be nothing more important than to learn how to appropriately handle pain, evil and suffering in this life. Everything around us in the culture and media would rather us forget that (see How to Avoid God), and even if up to now you have lived a relatively trouble free life, common sense shows that it cannot last. We have hints of this when we go through failures and disappointments (see How to Fail and Lose Well Part 1 and Part 2 along with 9 Ways to Look at your Failures with the Eyes of Faith).

2. The message that implicitly comes at us through modern secular culture is that this life is all that matters. We are conditioned to tell ourselves that there is no afterlife and no soul part of us that lives for ever. What that means is that all my happiness has to be found in this life. My happiness becomes my meaning in life.The problem is that thinking like that will destroy your meaning in life.
(By the way, if you’ve stayed with me to this point, hang in there – it does get better! I promise you.

3. An important theme of the Bible is how God brings lasting, permanent, fulfilling and abundant joy into our lives not just despite our suffering, but through our suffering. Christ is the supreme example of that (see A Day That Changed the World and 4 Personal Implications of the Resurrection).

4. Although we can learn a lot about suffering from the great books, and especially the Bible, there is a real danger that we only know this on an intellectual level. It is only when the suffering comes do we find out what our foundations really are. That is why it is so important to build our spiritual foundations while the sun, so to speak, is shining and before the storms come.

5. The bottom line is that we have to be equipped to know about pain and suffering in such a way that we can use it in our lives so that it  is ultimately completely defeated. I have come to the conclusion that the most comprehensive response to suffering comes from Biblical Christianity. Here is how Keller articulates it in his book:

“Christianity teaches that contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and faced rightly, it can drive us like a deep nail into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.”

This is expanded in much more detail than I can give here in Keller’s book.

However, it would be great to have your thoughts and reflections on these vital issues below.

(If you are reading this via an email, please respond so from the website – it helps me to reply to you more efficiently!)