One of the perennial questions for all theologians (and all human beings) is “Why do we suffer?” And, “If God is good and sovereign, why does he allow suffering?”
While most of us have these questions, we don’t really have to deal with them until we experience suffering ourselves. This is when we discover whether we really have a “theology of suffering” that can deal with the hard parts of life.
And that’s the thing about the coronavirus. It forces all of us to answer the tough questions about suffering. We can no longer duck the issue.
To be clear, I am not talking about answers to the intellectual questions regarding the problem of evil and how to resolve it. Reformed folks have addressed that issue in spades.
What is needed instead is a robust accounting for the role suffering plays in the life of the Christian and how to endure it faithfully when it comes. So, let me point you to three helpful resources:
First, you will want to check out the recent commentary on the book of Job by Dick Belcher entitled, Job: The Mystery of Suffering and God’s Sovereignty (Christian Focus, 2017).
If one wants to deal head on with the issue of suffering, then certainly the story of Job is a great place to start. But, Belcher’s commentary is more than just a verse by verse analysis of the text of Job. While there is much exegetical gold to mine here, Belcher presents the story of Job more like a pastor ministering to people who are suffering.
Woven throughout the commentary is a modern example of suffering that effectively applies what the text is teaching. Belcher tells the story of Nik and Lindsay Franks and their baby son Pierce. Pierce was born 17 weeks premature at just 1 pound, 8 ounces. The Franks endured innumerable challenges, set backs, and obstacles as they learned to trust the Lord in the midst of suffering.
One of the endorsement’s perfectly captures the feel of the book:
Belcher takes a new direction amongst Job commentaries. He is no ivory tower academic, theorising about suffering, or playing with the book’s theology. Weaving in the story of little baby Pierce, this is a scholarly and reliable commentary with a real human touch.
–Jared Hood ~ Old Testament Lecturer, Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne
A second resource is a great little book by John Currid entitled, Why Do I Suffer?: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Christian Focus, 2004). Written in the aftermath of 9/11, Currid tackles all the major questions we struggle with in regard to why God allows tragedies in our world.
What I appreciate about this book is not only its theological faithfulness, but also its brevity. Tackling such a big issue in such a little space is a remarkable accomplishment. In our moments of suffering, we are not always up to the challenge of a 600-page treatise on the problem of evil. So, this little volume really hits the spot.
Finally, I point you to this wonderful video by author/speaker Nancy Guthrie: “What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps and Really Hurts.” She did this as part of our EQUIP series here at RTS Charlotte.
Nancy tells part of her own story of suffering and how that has helped her understand how to help others who suffer. It’s a wonderful presentation you don’t want to miss.