Timothy Keller titles Part One of Walking with God through Pain and Suffering “Understanding the Furnace”. In this part of the book Pastor Keller looks at suffering from the outside, taking particular note of the various ways different cultures, religions, and eras in history have attempted to help people face and get through suffering.
The author begins Chapter 1 (“The Cultures of Suffering”) by stating that since Jesus was patient under greater suffering for us, we can be patient under lesser suffering for Him. At this point in the discussion, Pastor Keller adds, “nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.” Our secular Western culture doesn’t make this task any easier. Social theorists have often noted that our culture is one of the weakest and worst in history at instructing its members to suffer properly. Dr. Paul Brand, who has treated lepers in India and in the United States, once wrote:
“In the United States . . . I encountered a society that seeks to avoid suffering at all costs. Patients lived at a greater comfort level that any I had previously treated, but they seemed far less equipped to handle suffering and far more traumatized by it.”
Individual happiness and comfort cannot provide ultimate meaning to life. A meaningful life can be achieved not only in spite of suffering, but through it.
Today’s question: To what degree has Western secular culture affected your perception of your vocation loss? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Purification, not punishment”