Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

This book will make no attempt to defend God. . . . If you are looking for a book that boasts triumphantly of conquest over a great enemy, or gives a detached philosophical analysis that neatly solves an absorbing problem, this isn't it....

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Title:Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering
Author:Kelly M. Kapic
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Edition Language:English

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering Reviews

  • Michael Philliber

    One of the most awkward moments you can ever face is to walk into a hospice, a hospital room, or a home and get bombarded with “why” questions: why pain, why this catastrophe, why this decline and death. What truly makes it clumsy is to then start waxing eloquent about the problem of evil and pain and the goodness of God in a defensive, apologetic posture. Most of the time the family is not asking, needing or wanting a crash course in philosophy. I learned early on in situations like this to

    One of the most awkward moments you can ever face is to walk into a hospice, a hospital room, or a home and get bombarded with “why” questions: why pain, why this catastrophe, why this decline and death. What truly makes it clumsy is to then start waxing eloquent about the problem of evil and pain and the goodness of God in a defensive, apologetic posture. Most of the time the family is not asking, needing or wanting a crash course in philosophy. I learned early on in situations like this to simply sit down, shed tears with the family, and hold hands with parishioners or patients. Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain Georgia and able author, presents similar advice and direction from personal experience in his new 197 page paperback, “Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering”. This fine little book is “a theological and pastoral meditation” (4) for the hurting, the healers and the helpers.

    Kapic takes readers through three levels dealing with the struggle, the strangeness of God and life together. On the first stage the author looks at how pain brings us to think “hard thoughts about God,” to ask questions that often accompany the sorrow, to see how we should and shouldn’t react to those aching or grieving, and to make certain we do not belittle the body and its role in bringing us to recognize our place and space. “Our existence occurs not as beings who drop out of the sky but rise from the dust” (50). Since embodied pain reminds of this, it helps us also to know that we “cannot act as if we have complete control over our bodies or live as if our actions have no purpose beyond our own convenience and pleasure” (55). There is some well-seasoned thinking between these soft covers!

    “Embodied Hope” then ascends to the next plane by addressing, rightly, the incarnation, cross and resurrection. Here is where strong theology moves out of the seminary and confessional books, arrives to sit down beside our sickbeds, take hold of our hands and become therapeutic. “Our physical pain genuinely matters to Jesus – it matters to God! We are far too prone to spiritualize what Jesus makes physical, even theologizing his physical suffering into a response to our spiritual problem (sin), as if our true being were only spiritual and not physical. For Jesus, the physical and spiritual are indissolubly connected, and his life and death address them both” (94) as do, also, his resurrection.

    The final platform serves up the more practical aspects, both for the healers and helpers, as well as the hurting. Kapic leans mightily on Luther, and draws heavily from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” in these three chapters. The author addresses the task of the congregation, the place of confession, and the importance of commitment. “Frequently, what the sufferer needs most is not answers but a loving presence and lasting commitment. Both the sufferer and those who care for them need to be committed to faithful suffering” (151).

    “Embodied Hope” is teeming with wisdom, direction and consolation for the hurting, the healers and the helpers. As a pastor I can unashamedly say that every minister should snatch up a copy, read it through, dog-ear it, mark it with pen and highlighter, and employ its counsel with prayer and grace. This volume would be ideal for adult groups to read and discuss. But also, sufferers and caregivers alike will find it a bountiful boon. I strongly recommend the book!

    Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

  • Chris Woznicki

    The problem of evil has been solved. Well, at least the logical problem of evil has been, which for the lived experience of most human beings is radically insufficient. Pain and suffering present a radically real problem for many people. People die, get sick, and deal with chronic pain. For some, these realities pose a major stumbling block to seeing God as good. Kelly Kapic, the author of Embodied Hope has experienced these realities first hand. His wife has dealt with the ravages and emotional

    The problem of evil has been solved. Well, at least the logical problem of evil has been, which for the lived experience of most human beings is radically insufficient. Pain and suffering present a radically real problem for many people. People die, get sick, and deal with chronic pain. For some, these realities pose a major stumbling block to seeing God as good. Kelly Kapic, the author of Embodied Hope has experienced these realities first hand. His wife has dealt with the ravages and emotional toll of physical suffering. In light of this he has chosen to write a book which is both theological and pastoral, exploring the truths about God and ourselves which have bearing upon this problem of pain and suffering.

    Naturally, the problem of evil is a really large topic, thus Kapic chooses to limit himself in two ways: First, he chooses to address Christians who suffer. Thus this book isn’t meant as a global defense against the existential problem of evil, or evil in general. It is aimed ad Christians who experience suffering. Second, he chooses to deal with suffering associated specifically with serious illness or physical pain.

    The book is roughly divided into three parts. Part one deals with the limitations of easy answers often given to the problem of suffering and he deals with the nature of biblical lament. Here he also explores what it means to be embodied creatures. Part two turns to Christology in order to address some of these issues. Kapic believes that “Only by looking to this man [Christ] can we reorient our experience of suffering in a way that is truly Christian.” (15) In part three Kapic relates ecclesiology to the problem of suffering. He says that in the body of Christ we “discover a pattern for Christian discipleship that allows for genuine struggle, communal support, and transformative affection.” (15)

    As someone who would consider myself to be a “pastor-theologian” I can really appreciate the nature of this work. Kapic works hard to make sure that our theological reflections are not separated from our pastoral practice. I found Kapic’s chapter on the Incarnation to be especially strong in maintaining this bond. Here he examines the theology of Athanasius and Warfield and concludes that,

    The physicality of the Messiah takes us to the heart of the gospel and God’s promise, not just of sympathy but of rescue. God has come, come near, come to be God with us and God for us!” (75)

    This is a powerful truth with major pastoral implications. Much incarnational theology has swung towards saying that the most important part of the incarnation is that Christ now has solidarity with us. This is certainly true, and pastorally significant, but solidarity without rescuing doesn’t offer much hope!

    His chapter on confession was also enlightening. I have rarely seen a chapter on confession in a book addressing suffering. If I have, they are often very poorly written, wrongly teaching that our sickness/suffering is always tied to some hidden sin. So what does confession have to do with healing? Confession before others can help us disentangle our pain from the idea of personal punishment, it liberates us from shame and condemnation, it allows us to meet Christ in the other, and allows us to make ourselves truly vulnerable to the healing presence of God. This is truly powerful stuff!

    So who should pick up this book? Undoubtedly, pastors! I mentioned above that this is a great example of pastoral theology. Kapic doesn’t present anything “new” here, or anything particularly interesting to academic theologians. However, he does an amazing job of making theology “real” for pastors and laypersons. I often hear that systematic theology is irrelevant or that it’s a nice intellectual pursuit, but here Kapic shows us that is simply untrue. The sort of historical theology and systematic theology he is engaging in this book is supremely relevant to the life of anyone who calls themselves a Christian.

  • John Kight

    If one thing is certain about life on earth, it’s that pain and suffering are inevitable realities regardless of who you are or where you grew up. There has been much Christian literature written to mend this reality and provide hope for a hurting world, and rightly so. But, few of these books have actually sought to share in the lament of human suffering, as they seem to be more focused on providing canned Christian answers that explain away the problem than actually dealing with the reality of

    If one thing is certain about life on earth, it’s that pain and suffering are inevitable realities regardless of who you are or where you grew up. There has been much Christian literature written to mend this reality and provide hope for a hurting world, and rightly so. But, few of these books have actually sought to share in the lament of human suffering, as they seem to be more focused on providing canned Christian answers that explain away the problem than actually dealing with the reality of suffering itself. Fortunately, Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering by Kelly M. Kapic has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air that is both theologically grounded and biblically sensitive.

    Kelly M Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Kapic received his PhD from King’s College, University of London and is the author or editor of several books, including A Little Book for New Theologians and Mapping Modern Theology.

    Embodied Hope is somewhat of a personal memoir about pain and suffering in the life of the author. As Kapic notes, “although I have a PhD, I find that I rarely know what I think—really think—about something until I have had to write about it . . . therefore, after a few years, and under the encouragement of others—including my wife—I have aimed to wrestle through some of these questions in a more public manner” (p. 3). Still, Embodied Hope is not a personal memoir, but a theological entry ramp into a much larger conversation concerning who we are in this world and how we relate to God therein. “This book will make no attempt to defend God,” Kapic writes, “I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in this world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles” (p. 7-8). This gives the book a very raw, but surprisingly polished and organic feeling.

    Embodied Hope is comprised of three parts: (1) the struggle, (2) the strangeness of God, and (3) life together. Kapic recognizes the problem, articulates how God identifies with us through the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and finally provides a solution (if it can be called such) in a community-driven model of life. The heart of the book is discovered in the second section. Kapic points the reader to Jesus as a model for embodied hope. Still, the most rewarding and encouraging section (apart from the necessary road to be traveled in the person and work of Christ), in my opinion, is the destination of the book—namely that life should be lived together in faithful perseverance in Christ.

    Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering by Kelly M. Kapic is a book on a familiar topic, done in a not so familiar way. Kapic is deeply entrenched, both personally and professionally, in the realities that knock at the door of every human being. Kapic is bold and unashamed of the suffering that he and his family face, because he knows that it will bring glory to Christ. But, more than that, Kapic is confident that hope—embodied hope—is made manifest in the person and work of Christ, and lived out in faithfulness and community. This is a book that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Kapic does not defend God, he provides hope. Kapic does not offer theological remedies, he demonstrates true theological meditation. Healing and comfort are found within these pages, and I can think of no reason not to recommend Embodied Hope, because everyone will need it at some point.

  • James

    There are a number of recent treatments on the problem of suffering. Christian writers and theologians have reflected on losing loved ones, trying circumstances, diagnoses of debilitating, chronic, and terminal diseases, and natural disasters. Many of these theologians seek to trace the place that suffering has within the purposes of God. In

    ,Kelly Kapic offers his theological and pastoral meditation on pain, prompted by watching his wife battle chronic pain and fatigue for

    There are a number of recent treatments on the problem of suffering. Christian writers and theologians have reflected on losing loved ones, trying circumstances, diagnoses of debilitating, chronic, and terminal diseases, and natural disasters. Many of these theologians seek to trace the place that suffering has within the purposes of God.  In

    , Kelly Kapic offers his theological and pastoral meditation on pain, prompted by watching his wife battle chronic pain and fatigue for several years. He doesn't guess at the 'why' behind suffering but describes the reality of pain, and the resources available to those of us who suffer.

    Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College (Lookout Mountain, Georgia) and an author of several books. He stands firmly in the Reformed tradition, but unlike some of his Calvinist friends, you won't find him tweeting about 'God's greater purpose' in the wake of profound tragedy. 

    doesn't attempt a theodicy—a defense of God in the face of evil's existence. His first chapter opens, "This book will make no attempt to defend God. I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in the world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles. How should we live in the midst of this pain-soaked world? How do we relate to the God whose world this is?" (7-8).

    In the pages that follow, Kapic examines the reality of pain, wrestling honestly with the experience (part 1), before examining the resources we have in the midst of suffering: Jesus (part two) and Christian community (part 3).

    In part 1, Kapic takes an honest look at the problem of pain, describing its debilitating effect on our spirituality. In chapter one Kapic notes how the problem of pain causes us to 'think hard things about God.' In chapter two, he discusses the need for Christians to develop both pastoral sensitivity and theological instincts (24), by not attempting to untangle the 'why' behind suffering but instead seeking to love others well, even in our theologizing (26). In chapter three, Kapic advocates the place of lament and grief in Christian spirituality. He notes:

    Chapters five and six invite us to a spirituality that embraces our physical embodiment and the 'questions that come with pain.

    In part 2, Kapic describes the resources available in Christ Jesus for Christians suffering and in pain. Chapter six discusses how Jesus' incarnation involved God's self-identification with us in our embodiment. In chapter seven, Kapic explains how Christ on the cross, entered fully with us, into the experience of pain and death. In chapter eight, Kapic explores how we enter into Christ's resurrection and the hope of redemption beyond our pain and death. Kapic writes, "Christian affirmation of resurrection is not chiefly about escaping this world but righting it. Resurrection is not about denying this world but rather enabling believers to have an honest assessment of their experience and yet to have a real hope for restoration beyond it. Pain is real, but it is not the only reality" (115).

    Part three describes the resources available for sufferers in Christian community. In chapter nine, Kapic discusses, through the lens of Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Luther, the ways fellow Christians enliven our

    when we are in a weakened state, proclaim hope to us when we are unable to proclaim

    for ourselves, and demonstrates to us the matrix of divine

    by walking alongside us in our pain and suffering. Chapter ten reflects (with Dietrich Bonhoeffer) on the resources of confession for those who suffer (e.g. forgiveness, cleansing, healing, restoration, release from shame and condemnation and false images of God that compound psychological suffering, and mediating Christ's presence). Chapter eleven describes faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

    Kapic offers these reflections as a gift to the church. Pastors, pastoral counselors and all who walk along side Christians in pain, will find Kapic's counsel to be both wise and sensitive. He avoids clichés and offers an embodied hope to those suffering. I appreciate the way he wrestles with the reality of pain and takes an honest look at it. He honors those who are suffering by describing with senstivity the difficulties they face, but also acknowledges how destructive pain may be for their spiritual lives:

    It is only after describing the dangers and realities implicit in pain, and encouraging sufferers to examine themselves honestly, that he describes the 

    we have in the midst of pain: the Jesus who took on flesh, suffered, died, rose and ascended and the body of Christ which mediates His presence today.

    This book will be a helpful aid for pastors, sufferers of chronic illness and for their supportive community. I recommend this book highly. Five stars: ★★★★★

    Notice of material connection: I received this book from IVP Academic in exchange for my honest review

  • Ruth

    I already know that I'm going to read this again. As the author notes, it's not intended as a full theodicy but as a meditation on the experience of suffering and how our emotional and spiritual lives are impacted by chronic physical pain. The author absolutely nails it when it comes to the modern church's weaknesses in counseling and serving those who suffer in this way. The second half of the book is especially practical and fruitful. Absolutely recommended, especially for those in ministry.

  • John Boyne

    Kapic's book on theological meditations on pain and suffering is an excellent resources both for counselors and laypeople to gain a deeper understanding behind how best we are to react to pain and suffering in the Christian community. While the author wrote this book on physical pain it can be easily applied to all forms of pain such as psychological, emotional, or spiritual. The emphasis of the book is on the character of God and how growing deeper in our understanding and worship of the

    Kapic's book on theological meditations on pain and suffering is an excellent resources both for counselors and laypeople to gain a deeper understanding behind how best we are to react to pain and suffering in the Christian community. While the author wrote this book on physical pain it can be easily applied to all forms of pain such as psychological, emotional, or spiritual. The emphasis of the book is on the character of God and how growing deeper in our understanding and worship of the Creator can lead to peace and comfort in times of pain. I most appreciated the part where he discusses Job and how God allowed him to cry out "Why is this happening to me!" and where God doesn't respond "Because..." but instead responded "This is who I am". That was so powerful to me that in light of our pain we can cling to our Creator and Savior and know that in His sovereignty we can have peace in pain without every fully understanding God's purposes behind them. This book can be a comfort to those in pain as well as a training tool to those who want to learn how to comfort others.

  • Samuel Kassing

    Wow. Kelly Kapic crushes it with this book. I wish I had this book to give out when My daughter was in the NICU and so many people were saying “I wish we knew how to help you.” This isn’t a comprehensive theology of suffering. It’s Kapic reflection on suffering from a number of angles. The specific type of suffering that Kapic focuses on is Chronic Pain. Kapic wife suffers with chronic pain and he has wrestled with how to care for people who suffer in this way. In my opinion part one of the book

    Wow. Kelly Kapic crushes it with this book. I wish I had this book to give out when My daughter was in the NICU and so many people were saying “I wish we knew how to help you.” This isn’t a comprehensive theology of suffering. It’s Kapic reflection on suffering from a number of angles. The specific type of suffering that Kapic focuses on is Chronic Pain. Kapic wife suffers with chronic pain and he has wrestled with how to care for people who suffer in this way. In my opinion part one of the book is worth the price of the entire book. I suspect this will be a top ten book for me this year. @ivpress

  • Steven

    he best books to read on suffering are those written by those who are personally acquainted with it. Author and professor Kelly Kapic writes not as one detached from suffering, but as a fellow-sufferer and the husband of one deeply acquainted with pain and suffering.

    In eleven chapters Kapic provides pastoral and theological wisdom in regard to pain in suffering. In the early chapters of the book Kapic addresses how pain and suffering often tempt us to think ill of God and the need to be

    he best books to read on suffering are those written by those who are personally acquainted with it. Author and professor Kelly Kapic writes not as one detached from suffering, but as a fellow-sufferer and the husband of one deeply acquainted with pain and suffering.

    In eleven chapters Kapic provides pastoral and theological wisdom in regard to pain in suffering. In the early chapters of the book Kapic addresses how pain and suffering often tempt us to think ill of God and the need to be reoriented to God and the place of lament and questions in pain in suffering. In the second of section Kapic points readers to the cross and the significance there is in Christ's identification with us for the pain and suffering we find in this world. In the final section Kapic addresses the importance of community for suffering saints, also noting how in  suffering there is a temptation to isolate oneself from community for fear of how others will react. 

    Of all the subjects one could read about it might be asked why anyone should want to read a book on pain and suffering. Kapic speaks to certainties of life in addressing pain and suffering. If you are a Christian you will suffer in some way, it is part of being a follower of Christ sharing in His sufferings. Not only that those you love and know will suffer. If you are in ministry everyone you minister is suffering or will suffer. Kapic's book is a valuable resource that points faithfully to the bedrock foundation we have in hope even and especially in the midst of suffering.

    Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

  • Justin Lonas

    The problem of evil supposedly keeps theologians and (especially) atheists awake at night. This is not a book about that. Kapic takes both a fallen world filled with pain, suffering, and injustice and the infinite goodness and power of God. His focus is on what meaning there is in pain, and particularly, how we should approach suffering in the church: how we should acknowledge pain individually and corporately, and how we should consider our responsibility to those who suffer.

    This small book is

    The problem of evil supposedly keeps theologians and (especially) atheists awake at night. This is not a book about that. Kapic takes both a fallen world filled with pain, suffering, and injustice and the infinite goodness and power of God. His focus is on what meaning there is in pain, and particularly, how we should approach suffering in the church: how we should acknowledge pain individually and corporately, and how we should consider our responsibility to those who suffer.

    This small book is worth reading for anyone who has experienced suffering or is living in it now, who loves someone who has experienced suffering or is living in it now, and for those who may someday experience it.

  • Becky

    First sentence: This book will make no attempt to defend God. I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in this world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles. How should we live in the midst of this pain-soaked world? How do we relate to the God whose world this is? If you are looking for a book that boasts triumphantly of conquest over a great enemy or gives a detached philosophical analysis that neatly solves an

    First sentence: This book will make no attempt to defend God. I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in this world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles. How should we live in the midst of this pain-soaked world? How do we relate to the God whose world this is? If you are looking for a book that boasts triumphantly of conquest over a great enemy or gives a detached philosophical analysis that neatly solves an absorbing problem, this isn’t it. Instead, this book aims to invites you into a larger conversation, a conversation greater than my family, and a struggle bigger than your pain and doubt. For while our pain, or the suffering of those we love, may cause us to feel isolated, these challenges remind us that we are actually part of the much larger stream of humanity.

    Premise/plot: Embodied Hope is a Christian book about pain--chronic physical pain to be exact. It is divided into three parts: "The Struggle," "The Strangeness of God," and "Life Together."

    The premise is simple: "Physical suffering often affects how we relate to God and others….The condition of our bodies does influence how we understand God and his ways….Pain in our body often influences how we relate to others." Kapic writes, "We must not pit the body against the spirit, the mind against the heart, the individual against the community. For our struggle is not ultimately with a single side of suffering but with how it affects us in our totality: from our relationships to our faith, from our bodies to our hope, from our mourning to our love."

    Kapic examines the subject of pain in the world in this world. How pain impacts the individual, the family unit, the church community, and to a very small extent society itself. It isn't necessarily a theological book on "the problem of evil" vs. "the goodness of God." I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Kapic seeks to avoid the general and abstract in favor of the intimate and personal. In fact, he writes, "Rightly understood, doing theology is more often like farming than it is like stacking doctrinal bricks. Theology is lived; it is not regimentally constructed….Only when we begin to see that theology is not merely about repeating back answers but instead more like caring for a garden can we care well for others….There is a world of difference between reading a book about caring for people and actually caring for people. To theologize well, we need to love well."

    The truth of the matter is that every person is unique. Every person has his or her own way of dealing with the pain, of coping with the pain, of living with the pain. And as much as he tries not to make generalizations, I think a few slip in.

    In the first part, he explores "the struggle" of living with pain and the theological implications. He assumes that pain leads most to have "hard thoughts" about God. He assumes that most pain sufferers have false notions of God. For example, they see him as angry, distant, cruel, harsh; someone who enjoys watching people suffer. Pain sufferers might conclude that God isn't good and merciful and kind.

    Kapic writes, "How does God look upon us in our weakness, even in our sin? Is God really angry or wrathful with us, his children? His bride? What picture of God is really warranted by the Scriptures? How do these passages like Zephaniah 3:17 and Isaiah 62:5 intersect our own experience? How can we then deal with the “hard thoughts” that tempt us, especially in our suffering? How do we develop a profound and affectionate trust of God rather than a sense of alienation? Our journey is to learn why such hard thoughts don’t reflect the triune God. Our hope is to learn to hear him singing over us, to trust his presence in the middle of the pain. Some will immediately object that this is wishful thinking based on a few obscure verses here and there. However, we will see that we are not talking about a few scattered biblical texts but are diving into the heart of the gospel, the heart of the good news discovered in Messiah. Only here will we unquestionably discover the very heart of God. To understand God and his relationship to our pain, we will need to examine the case of Jesus of Nazareth, a man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee over two thousand years ago. Only by listening to his words and by following the movement of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension might our very human struggle be seen in different light. Because he was and is God’s revelation of himself to us, it only makes sense to start there. In this endeavor it is to be hoped that our view of the God of heaven and earth will deepen beyond our current understanding. But to see Jesus clearly we need to stop defending our preconceived notions of who God is."

    In the second part, the focus shifts to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

    In the third part, the focus shifts to the church, to the community of believers. How can the church of God best care for the people of God? How can the church reach out, include, better understand those living and struggling with physical pain and suffering?

    I found the tenth chapter the most thought-provoking. In this chapter, he discusses the importance of confessing our sins to one another. This isn't a subject that is addressed often in contemporary theology. So he gave me a lot to think about!

    Favorite quotes:

    "Laments rise to the heavens as a strange combination of complaint, grief, questions, confusion, desire for rescue, and expectation of divine faithfulness. Our great hope is that lament is not all there is to human experience. Nevertheless, any who have truly lived and loved must come to believe that lament is at least part of our existence. Only the idealistic and unloving belittle tears and sadness. Only the coolly detached never raise a complaint about the condition of things, including our broken bodies. If we never lament, then it is legitimate to wonder if we have ever truly loved."

    "To have a healthy emotional, spiritual, and mental life, we must be honest with ourselves. One truth about our lives is that we are broken; we inevitably encounter our own suffering and that of others, and eventually we die. How does our Lord teach us to respond to this? He teaches us hope, and within that hope we use lament to speak to God of the painful delay of peace. All laments ultimately go to God, with whom we wrestle and rest."

    "If we fully and completely felt the lament of this broken and sinful world, it would crush any and all of us. We know that because it crushed Jesus. But thanks be to God, this Jesus also rose from the depths of despair and from the grave. He rose and lives even now. For now, let us simply appreciate that we are allowed, even invited, to lament. Yet we must take those laments to God since they will not crush him."

    "To be a truly human story—which is the only way we should understand the Christian story—means it must confess both grief and hope, sin and faithfulness, struggle and promise. We must learn to be truly honest with ourselves, with others, and even with God. Our theology requires it. Our stories demand it. Only with this kind of confession and lament are we finally in a position to capture a glimpse of the God who is, rather than the god we imagine him to be. Only then can we discover the scandalous grace of God so often spoken about, but so seldom truly savored."

    "The church has always believed that we do not testify properly to God if we lie about the state of the world. Sin, death, and devilish activity are all around us. Anguish, heartbreak, and troubled relationships are everywhere. This is the world we live in. And it is in this world that we must learn to live. Consequently, Christians are to live before God in this world by honestly facing the reality of pain’s presence and all that it represents. We neither deny nor glorify it, but we must face it nevertheless, for this is the world we inhabit."

    "So how are we to live when our present moment includes a constant guest called pain? How are we to embrace the present moment, not just in light of the possibility of some future death but as we live in the midst of very real suffering? These questions are not easy. But learning to ask questions, to wrestle honestly with God amid our laments, can actually serve as a way to live faithfully before and with God in the present, even amid our struggle with pain."

    "God concerns himself for us in our sin and pain, neither because it was required of him nor because he had personally done anything wrong, but because he loves us and is the only one who could restore what was lost, repay the debt, free the slave, and heal the sick."

    "So if faith and hope are to mean anything to us in our suffering, they must come to us in the context of love, or, to put it another way, faith and hope are only properly applied with love: a love accomplished and given through the person and work of Christ."

    "Love is what we are called to, and love is what we should never try to escape from. But in this fallen world, such love also brings with it real suffering."

    "We experience divine love most concretely when we receive and give it to others. God expresses his love and extends his comfort through his people."

    "When faith and hope grow out of love, they are like food for the hungry and medicine for the sick. Thus we need faith, hope, and love, but without love we lose all three."

    "Simply facing pain everyday does not free us from sin. Nor does it make us more sinful. But what it does tend to do is heighten our awareness of sin and brokenness in the world and in our own life. In a counterintuitive way, those who are hurting can also help those who are relatively free from pain: they remind us that the world—including our body—is not as it should be, and it is this which suffering and the pains of death never let us forget. But with these sisters and brothers we can also see the promise of shalom and hope, a promise not yet full realized. To understand these dynamics we must learn why those who suffer often have a heightened awareness of the reality of sin, not only in themselves but in the world."

    "I believe the act of confession, and in particular confession to a fellow believer, is crucial to sustaining the struggling saint. As we will soon see, for those facing physical suffering—where they have a heightened sense of their own sin—this act of confession becomes one of the keys to life-giving faith amid the voices of condemnation. This is not because they are greater sinners but because they sometimes have a greater sensitivity to the presence of sin in their lives and this world, and they sense their deep need for forgiveness and grace. We all need these gifts of divine compassion and mercy, but our relative health often masks the darker realities of our spiritual neediness."

    "To be forgiven, healed, cleansed, and restored to God requires that our offenses, diseases, dirt, and alienation be obliterated and that we experience the consequent forgiveness, healing, cleansing, and restoration. This requires an honest reckoning. Confession before others, therefore, to be of any use at all, requires that those others are safe and trustworthy, and that we are open with them. Normally, those who receive our confessions must have enough life and spiritual experiences in line with what is confessed to serve us well."

    "We need to hear the gospel from others, from outside ourselves. The power of the gospel preached personally to me from a faithful sister or brother has a power that I cannot conjure for myself."

    "Confession before others can also help us disentangle our pain from the idea of personal punishment. Here we can know forgiveness and grace even in our pain (1 Jn 1:9). Here we can honestly affirm and confess the brokenness of the world and the failures of our own hearts. In confession, we are brought before Jesus, whom we encounter through our brother and sister (Mt 18:20; 2 Cor 2:10). Looking into their eyes, hearing their voice, and feeling their touch, we can receive Jesus’s promise to us: “your sins are forgiven.”"

    "We may not be able to take away the physical pain, but we can point one another to him who promises one day to completely heal us. For now we cling to his promise of restoration, cling to him who has the ability also to restore the body. He will make all things new (Rev 21:5). We will be free from sin, pain, and tears (Is 65:19; Rev 21:4). We will be free from isolation, selfcondemnation, darkness, fear and anger (cf. Is 35:10//51:11; Rev 21:22-27). We will be utterly free to love our Creator and our neighbor. While we may not fully experience that freedom now, we can help one another to experience genuine tastes of shalom even in the present, even in our pain, even as we struggle with our sin."

    "Confession liberates us, not from physical pain but from shame and condemnation. And here, the “healthy” can learn from the hurting, like the blind teaching the Pharisees to see (cf. Jn 9:31–10:41)."

    "Witness holds an important place in the Christian tradition. These days when someone hears about Christian witness, they almost inevitably think about believers testifying of Christ to nonbelievers. That is what we call evangelism. However, what is often forgotten is how important giving witness or testimony can be within the Christian community, especially in times of difficulty. This witness is always twofold: acknowledging that our troubles are real and that God is unflinchingly faithful."

    "We are called to have compassion, to come alongside others in their pain, and to love them. This is risky. Almost inevitably you will—even if only in some small way—suffer with them. However, in this shared pilgrimage you will also discover afresh the grace and tenderness of God."

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