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A gospel perspective on suffering

The Gospel transforms our approach to suffering. Moralism takes the "Job's friends" approach, laying guilt on yourself. You simply assume: "I must be bad to be suffering". Under the guilt, though, there is always anger toward God. Why? Because moralists believe that God owes them. The whole point of moralism is to put God in one's debt. Because you have been so moral, you feel you don't really deserve suffering. So moralism tears you up, for at one level you think, "what did I do to deserve this?" but on another level you think, "I probably did everything to deserve this!" So, if the moralist suffers, he or she must either feel mad at God (because I have been performing well) or mad at self (because I have not been performing well) or both. On the other hand, relativism/pragmatism feels justified in avoiding suffering at all costs--lying, cheating, and broken promises are OK. But when suffering does come, the pragmatist also lays the fault at God's doorstep, claiming that he must be either unjust or impotent. But the cross shows us that God redeemed us through suffering. That he suffered not that we might not suffer, but that in our suffering we could become like him. Since both the moralist and the pragmatist ignore the cross in different ways, they will both be confused and devastated by suffering.

(--Tim Keller, from "The Centrality of the Gospel")

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