Synopses & Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Kellerwhose books have sold millions of copies to both religious and secular readersexplores 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. Lewiss The Problem of Pain, published more than seventy years ago. The great secular book on the subject, Elisabeth Ku¨bler-Rosss On Death and Dying, was first published in 1969. Its 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.
In the Preface to this 20th anniversary edition of his bestselling book, Rabbi Kushner relates the heartwarming responses he has received over the last two decades from people who have found inspiration and comfort within the pages of this classic book.
About the Author
TIMOTHY KELLER was born and raised in Pennsylvania and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular Sunday attendees and has helped to start nearly two hundred churches around the world. Also the author of Every Good Endeavor, The Meaning of Marriage, Jesus the King, Generous Justice, Counterfeit Gods, The Prodigal God, The Reason for God, and the Encounters with Jesus eSeries, Timothy Keller lives in New York City with his family.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is wrong, according to Kushner, with the quotations from the Bible on page 12? Such teachings tell us that God is in control and makes things happen for a reason; why does Kushner disagree with the perspective they express?
2. What does Kushner mean when he says, “Chaos is evil” [p. 61]?
3. Throughout the book, Kushner emphasizes the role of community in bringing people through their worst pain and grief. He mentions Jewish traditions like the meal of replenishment and the recitation of the Mourners Kaddish [p. 133], which shift the focus away from grief and death and back to life. Why is this idea so important, and why is it so often overlooked by people who are suffering from a loss?
4. What is the main message of the prayer written by Jack Riemer [pp. 130-31]? How does it differ from the kinds of prayers people often pray, like asking God for acceptance to a certain college or asking for a relative to get well? How is it similar to or different from the prayer of Jacob, discussed on pages 136-37?
5. Do the ideas expressed in When Bad Things Happen to Good People apply equally well to private and public tragedy—say, one persons death from cancer as opposed to the massive loss of life that took place on September 11, 2001, or the devastation of the 2003 earthquake in Iran? How might these ideas affect a readers moral understanding of historys worst events?
6. Why is the story of Job so important to this book? What insight does Kushner bring to the story?
7. Kushner writes, “I no longer hold God responsible for illnesses, accidents, and natural disasters, because I realize that I gain little and I lose so much when I blame God for those things” [p. 147]. Does it make sense that God is not an active agent in human misfortune? Why do most people think that God is responsible for the bad things that happen to us?
8. The idea that suffering has no meaning is “the most significant challenge that can be offered to the point of view I have been advocating in this book” [p. 148]. How does Kushner come to terms with this problem?
9. What is the wisdom in Kushners suggestion that we should always focus on looking forward, asking ourselves, “Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?” [p. 149]
10. Kushner writes, “There is a crucial difference between denying the tragedy, insisting that everything is for the best, and seeing the tragedy in the context of a whole life, keeping ones eye and mind on what has enriched you and not only on what you have lost” [p. 153]. Why is this shift in perspective so important?
11. “The facts of life and death are neutral. We, by our responses, give suffering either a positive or a negative meaning” [p. 151]. How central is this statement to the books overall argument?
12. Kushner says that he would give up all of the wisdom and sensitivity that he gained through his own suffering in order to be “the father of a bright, happy boy” [p. 147]. If Kushners son had lived, it is unlikely he would have written this book. Kushner argues that suffering is not ennobling, yet his readers might argue that in his case it was. What is the creative potential of tragic experience?
13. If you could summarize in a sentence or two how this book has changed your perspective on the most difficult problems you face, what would you say? What inspiration does the book offer for you?
When Harold Kushners three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of lifes most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
Since its original publication in 1981, When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.