Tag Archives: Suffering

Home by another way – A Scripture Index – Pentecost

The gospel of the  Holy Spirit – Acts 2 (page 143)

The sound of three hands clapping – one of my favourite ever sermons – John 16 on the Trinity (page 153)

The cheap cure – The miracle in the water – this was rather a profound sermon when I read it, although can’t remember the exact circumstances exactly which reminds me I must write such things down – 2 Kings 5

Out of the whirlwind – Job 38

Perfect in weakness  – 2 Corinthians 12 (page 170)

To whom can we go – Joshua 24, Ephesians 5, John 6

Famine in the land – Amos 8 (page 182)

The yes and no brothers – Matthew 21 (page 189)

The Wedding Dress – Matthew 22 (page 194)

Bothering God – Luke 18 (page 199)

God of the living – Luke 20 (page 205)

God’s handkerchief – Revelation 7 (page 210) – For all saints day

Pope Francis – Untying The Knots

Francis often quotes the words of the German poet Holderlin
“may the man not betray what he promised as a child” (page 25)

Francis knew some familiar struggles

“One regular gripe was that vocations to the priesthood had fallen in Buenos Aires in his time” (page 121)

On Rafael Tello, the Liberation Theologian silenced by the Church
“Nobody who has opened up new paths leaves without scars on his body.” (page 138)

“Guilt by itself… is just another human resource.  Guilt, without atonement, does not allow us to grow” (page 146)

On going out to the peripheries (a now famous speech before the conclave and given here) the surge needs to surge forth to the peripheries.
“The Church is supposed to be the mysterium lunae, the mystery of the moon is that it has no light, but simply reflects the light of the sun” (page 155)

“It’s about a shift in our understanding of Church. The community which presides in love; that is putting the Pope back in the college.  It is ecclesiastically radical.  He has thought through what he is doing.  It is the produce of the many years of practical theology.” (page 166)

He calls for “a church that gets out in the street and runs the risk of an accident” rather than a church which “doesn’t get out and sooner or later gets sick from being locked up” (page 180)

Two great tests

Proverbs 3:9-10

From Ultimate Training Camp, 23rd Jan 2005

There is an introduction on wisdom and a quotation from Agatha Christie, that Miss Marple is a woman of great wisdom.

On the adjunct of suffering and prosperity of Proverbs, that these are the two great tests of the Christian life.  To borrow an illustration from CS Lewis, they are like going down into your basement to discover if there are rats in your basement.  These two reveal to us what is going on in our hearts.

27 mins-

Quote on a woman who had known famous people before they were famous:

“I pity celebrities, no I really do.  Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings.  But now their wrath is awful.

I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you, he grants you your deepest wish and then giggles merrily when you realise you want to kill yourself.

You see, Sly, Bruce and Barbara, wanted fame.  They worked, they pushed.  And the morning after they became famous they wanted to take an overdose.  Because that giant thing they were striving for, that thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness, happened.  And they were still them.  The disillusionment turned them howling and miserable.”

32 mins – I am messed up but I am still loved.  When I am messed up I can remind myself of the affirmation of the gospel.  When I am doing well I can remind myself of the humility of the gospel.

39 mins – suffering and adversity will make you into something great.  C.S. Lewis – to say to God, “Don’t let anything bad happen to me” is really another way of saying “Don’t love me.”

Also in there a really disturbing article from Jonathan Rauch called “Seeing round corners” from Atlantic Monthly, about the way that mobs behave in despicable ways because they fear no consequence from their action.  This is here: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/issues/2002/04/rauch.htm

Talks about idolatry being revealed when a relationship breaks up and if we react in such a way that this is the end of all meaning and life, then this shows that this person had become your idol.

Always with Keller there is the hope we find in the gospel which as ever is the way through the conundrums of life, the twin pressures, the gospel always provides for us another way.

Sergei Kourdakov and Christian Urban Myths

I had been planning to add this powerful story about endurance and suffering to the quotes from Desiring God.  I’ll still include the quote at the bottom of the article, but more disturbing is this article here, on how the story is almost certainly fabricated.  In the comments you’ll find an update on the eponymous Natasha who had never met Sergei and had not been persecuted in the way described.  It is heartening to read the Wikipedia biog of Sergei, where it transpires that the remarkable Richard Wurmbrand had spoken against the exploitation of Sergei’s story at the time.

All this put me in mind of this blog here on Christian fakery – please no more messages about the White House banning Christmas trees.  Or that Psalm 118 is the middle chapter of the Bible – claim which once took up several hours of my life counting chapters.

Anyway, here is the quote from the Persecutor:

From the Sergei Kourdakov’s The Persecutor, from Desiring God, page 275


I saw Victor Matveyev reach and grab for a young girl [Natasha Zhdanova] who was trying to escape to another room. She was a beautiful young girl. What a waste to be a Believer. Victor caught her, picked her above his head, and held her high in the air for a second. Continue reading

Love feels distant

He said, “I can’t dress myself, I don’t have….”


She said, “You’ll have top dress yourself” and she left the room.


He said “I kicked, I screamed, I kicked, I screamed, I yelled, ‘You don’t love me anymore!”  Finally I realised that, if I were to get any clothes on, I’d have to get my clothes on.”  After hours of struggle, he got some clothes on.  He said, “It was not until later that I knew my mother was in the next room crying.”


I don’t know if God distances God’s self from us, but I know sometimes we feel some distance.

(page 97)

The Great Feast

The original guests refuse to respond to the good news that the banquet is ready.  They are confident that the banquet cannot proceed without them and that the entire event will thus become a humiliating defeat for the host.  But not so – unworthy guests are invited.  The host is not indebted socially to the poor, maimed, blind and lame, and they will not be able to respond in kind.  The offer is what we have described elsewhere as “unexpected visible demonstration of love in humiliation”.  The dramatic, visible nature of the demonstration is clear.  It is unexpected and breaks in upon the new group of undeserving guests as a stunning surprise.  The host may anticipate suffering since the original guests will be infuriated that their attempt to abort the banquet has failed, and they will taunt the host as one who is unable to put together a banquet without “bringing in the riffraff”.  Again, as in the case of the Prodigal Son, this unexpected visible demonstration of love in suffering theologically foreshadows the cross and demonstrates in essential form its meaning. (page 100)

Jesus does not here teach either a mechanically operating predestination, which determines from all eternity who shall or who shall not be brought into the Kingdom.  Neither does He proclaim that man’s entry into the Kingdom is purely his own affair.  The essential points in His teaching are that no man can enter the Kingdom without the invitation of God, and that no man can remain outside it but by his own deliberate choice.  Man cannot save himself; but he can damn himself… He (Jesus) sees the deepest tragedy of human life, not in the many wrong and foolish things that men do, or the many good and wise things that they fail to accomplish, but in their rejection of God’s greatest gift (From Manson, on page 110)


1. Jesus is God’s unique agent calling for participation in the messianic banquet of salvation.

2. The messianic banquet promised by Isaiah (Isaiah 25:6-9) is inaugurated in the table fellowship of Jesus (realised eschatology).  But the parable is left open-ended.  All the guests are not assembled.  The parable breaks off with the house not yet full.  Thus there is an unfulfilled future anticipated by the parable (futuristic eschatology).  The full vision of the messianic banquet is yet in the future, when the faithful will sit down in the kingdom with Abaraham, Isaac and Jacob (Luke 13:28-29).  Thus the messianic banquet of the end times is both now and not yet.

3. The excuses people offer for refusal to respond to the invitation to join in the banquet are stupid and insulting.  The original guests have their counterpart in every age.

4. The invitation to table fellowship at the banquet is extended to the unworthy who can in no way compensate the host for his grace.  These outcasts may be from within or from without the community.

5. Grace is unbelievable.   This is so true that some special pleading is required for many of the undeserving to be convinced that the invitation is genuine.

6. There is a centrifugal force to the mission taught in the parable.  The servant, with his invitation, is told to go out beyond the city.  If God’s salvation is to reach to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6) someone must take the message out and present it with all the winsomeness possible (Luke 14:23).

7. There is a self imposed concept of judgment.  Those who by their own choice reject the invitation thereby shut themselves off from the fellowship with the host and his guests.

8. There is a warning addressed to the presumptuous in the believing community.  God can get along without them.  If they fail to respond to his invitation, he will proceed with outsiders.

9. Time runs out on the invitation.  As Charles Smith has said, “Places are not kept open indefinitely at the Messianic table and those who assume… that there will always be room for them are likely to receive a rude shock.”

10. The guests must be invited.  No one “storms the party” Attendance is by invitation only.  Yet the guests must respond and come in.  There is no participation at a distance. (pages 111-112)


The Crow Road

God wouldn’t do that sort of thing

Key Words Suffering
Source The Crow Road
Author Banks, Iain
Quote Kenneth McHoan says “…she did believe; must be a God, prayed every night, went to church….then her husband dies of cancer and the baby just stops breathing in its cot one night. So she stops believing. Told me that herself, said she couldn’t believe in a God that would do that sort of thing. What sort of faith is that? What sort of blinkered outlook on the world is it? Didn’t she believe anyone ever died tragically before? Didn’t she ever read her precious f…. bible with it’s catalogue of atrocities? Didn’t she believe the Holocaust had happened? Or did none of that matter because it had all happened to somebody else?”

Lessons from the raft


Then talks about those who succumb to suffering as groaners, and the profound idea that groaning was in the ancient world, and how we share this with creation (the pathetic fallacy) – looks at the creation groaning in Romans 8.


Then looks at the idea of conqueror, the one who overcomes, which is the background to Romans 8 – we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.


Ortberg Job

Don’t have the date.


What this book is about hinges on Job 1:9 – does Job fear God for no reason,

This is about quid-pro-quo


And the faith that Job has is in something different from that.


A few things that Ortberg notes

1. That Mrs Job gets beat up on by the commentators but she has a lot to deal with.

2. That Job at the end of chapter 2 sins not in his mouth, but in other things

3. That the grinding apparent tedium of the book is deliberate, because it is about the tedium of this mechanistic view which grinds you down

4. The importance of the friends who sit with Job, and this “Sitting Sheva” is such an important part of Jewish tradition, and perhaps if Job does find some strength later on, it is because partly of this moment of strength from his friends.


And then God moves to say that there are things which God does that don’t have to be done, that there is rain on a desert land with nobody living there.


And the daughters get named,

And they get names like “Eye shadow” as if to celebrate that which is to be enjoyed and simply here.


Note that Job never does get to hear what happens in the upper level, that is not what he gets given, he gets an experience of extravagance which is different from the mechanistic world of the four friends and Satan.

Jesus Was Not A Martyr



On the cross, Jesus suffered a three-hour long death by slow suffocation and blood loss.  As terribly painful as that was, there have been far more excruciating and painful deaths that martyrs have faced with far greater confidence and calmness.  Two famous examples are Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley who were burned at the stake at Oxford in 1555 for their Protestant convictions.  As the flames leapt up, Latimer as hard to say calmly, ‘Be of good comfort Mr. Ridley and play the man!  We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”


Why was Jesus more overwhelmed by his death than others have been, even more than his own followers?


[Christ] the god-man suffers too, with patience.  Evil and death can no longer be entirely imputed to him since he suffers and dies.  The night in Golgotha is so important in the history of only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death.  Thus is explained the ‘lama sabachthani’ and the frightful doubt of Christ in agony. (from Albert Camus, page 31)


Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf is not dead (as he thought) but alive.  He cries ‘I though you were dead!  But then I thought I was dead myself!  Is everything sad going to come untrue?”   The answer of Christianity to that question is of course – yes.  Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.  (page 33)


Dostoevsky put it perfectly when he wrote (page 33)


I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so previous will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed, that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.


C.S. Lewis (page 34)

They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’  not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.