I’ve often thought about what I would say at a funeral of someone who had just fought a long hard battle with cancer. Before you dismiss me as being morbid, hear me out. My grandfather passed away after a 10 year battle with colon cancer and I saw him once during that time. The original thinking comes into play because at that time I was unprepared with an answer for the suffering my family was going through. Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale have supplied those thinking about the question of suffering with an excellent resource in Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
In this penetrating yet accessible volume Zacharias and Vitale have provided a way through to the answer of suffering. With the backdrop of other worldviews in mind the authors set God and his Word over against the Eastern Mysticism and Western Secularism. They create rich analogies and provide clear pictures of the deep questions people are asking, and the answer the fits those questions best.
In finding a way to approach the problem of pain and pleasure or good and evil, the authors use worldviews as a lens to peer through in order to gain some sort of understanding. The author voices are distinct in approaching the relevant questions. Vitale does this through the image of the family and shows us, with a large arrow pointing to the gospel, how the sacrifice of a parent to suffer on behalf of a child paints a wonderful portrait of what God has done for us in Christ. Zacharias approaches the problem a little differently through conversations he’s had in the past where other worldviews simply failed to provide a solid answer for suffering. Not only does he show us through conversation, he examines Islam and Buddhism and in the end they fall short of anything truly helpful.
Throughout the text we find that the authors hold up Christianity next to Islam, Buddhism, and Naturalism, not above them. One by one, like a stack of dominoes, the other views simply cannot answer with any relevancy the desperate cry of a generation wrapped in darkness. They fold in on themselves when help up against the marvelous light of the gospel of Christ. No one aspect of what the authors claim has any power on its own. However, when paired up with that of the entire volume a cumulative case begins to emerge as the focus on God gets clearer and the reliance on transcending pain or relying on cause and effect begins to fade.
There are many books out there on suffering. There are many “paths” one may choose in answering the problem of pain. It’s complexity is deep and it’s answers numerous. How can one begin to trudge through the debris of secularism and unearth the gem that is Christ? Simply one word, Hope. “If God can be loving and good even amid suffering, then perhaps He can be trusted with the rest of life as well.”