Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?

As we continue to do discuss the subject of walking with God through pain and suffering from Tim Keller’s very helpful book, the 9 minute video below raises the ubiquitous question of why can a loving God allow pain and suffering in our lives?For me it has recently become much more than an intellectual question with the loss last month of a close friend of mine. (See the post entitled: Tribute to a Dear Friend):

The answer to the why of suffering on one level is very simple and on another level it is incredibly complex. 

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Part 2

We are looking this very important subject which is the title of a powerfully helpful book by Tim Keller. I personally have had to think much more deeply about suffering following the recent death of my dear friend Bunty (Abhishek Banerjee) in March 2014.

Below is  a very short 2 minute video about pain and suffering by Tim Keller. Although it is short it has some very important points to make and reflect on:

The following are some of the sobering truths we have to continually remind ourselves of if we are going to live life to the full and minimise our regrets:

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Part 1

The recent tragic loss of my dear friend Abhishek (Bunty) in the last few weeks has personally brought me face to face with the reality of suffering in life.

The 7 minute video below is an interview with the author and teacher Tim Keller in the week that he himself lost his mother. The video is taken from an American morning chat show. The discussion of Keller’s book helpfully builds on this important subject. For a subject that is so serious, it is actually remarkably uplifting. (I am afraid you will have to endure 30 seconds of commercials before you get to the interview, but it is worth the wait!)

Let’s think about the points being made in more detail.

A tribute to my dear friend Abhishek Banerjee (12 October 1981-17 March 2014)

This has been a very hard week. I had just spent a week in Delhi primarily giving leadership training for 3 days to Delhi Bible Institute and then visiting family and friends. That was not why this last week was so hard. Abhishek

I was able to spend time with a dear friend of mine who I have known for almost 10 years and was settled in Delhi with his wife. Abhishek (or Bunty as many of have known him) and Jayshree had been married for the last 2 years. Bunty has been like a younger brother to me. I last saw him on the night of Saturday 15 March 2014. We spoke on the morning of Monday 17 March. In the evening I received a call from Jayshree that he had died suddenly. He was only 32 years of age.

As one of the many family and friends who are still recovering from the shock of this tragic loss I want to share the following tribute to this dear brother who I, like many others, have had the privilege of knowing.

How well do you connect with others?

When you walk into a room do you increase or decrease the overall energy level?

 

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Human beings are by nature emotional creatures. By that I mean we often tend to make decisions for emotional reasons. Its only afterwards do we then give logical explanations for our choices. I know a man of great integrity and ability. However, for some reason emotionally we have never been able to connect with each other. As a result, I find myself not wanting to listen to what he has to say or to follow him. That is not just my experience. We all either give the same experience to others or receive that from others.

The 10th law of Leadership from John Maxwell’s classic book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” states:

Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. This is the law of connection.

9 ways to look at your failures with the eyes of faith. Especially #7

As we understand our failures and the mindset we have when things don’t go the way we expected or hoped for, there is also the issue of how my personal faith in God impacts my failings. How do I look at my failures with the eyes of faith?

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As a disciple of Christ, who has personally struggled with negative thoughts and feelings (see video here), this is something I have been personally very interested in.

In the mid 1990s, I was introduced to teaching on  cassette tape (remember those?) by Tim Keller that very helpfully articulated how to bring these negative thoughts and feelings to God. What I began to learn was that the default mode of my heart is towards religion rather than a dynamic living relationship with God. This is not something that I can ever in this life be completely cured of, but the exciting truth is that I can and am gradually changing. Part of me wants to go God’s way and another part of me wants to avoid Him (see post How to Avoid God). Here is how Keller practically explains our self-talk. Although this is only a synopsis, the outworking will take a lifetime as we strive towards spiritual maturity:

How to Fail and Lose Well Part 2

We have been looking at how little we are taught about how to handle failure, disappointment and discouragement in our lives. In the previous blog post I gave my personal experience of this.

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There would appear to be no school curriculum, or learning syllabus, as far as I know, entitled ‘How to cope with Failure.’

Through most of my life I have feared failure, misunderstood failure and been unprepared for failure.

However, over time and coming to work as a psychiatrist I have come to realise that my experience is far from unique.

The extreme end of not coping with failure is suicide. Here is how the author Simon Sinek (who interestingly describes himself as an unshakeable optimist and whose TED talk Start with Why is the second most popular TED talk of all time) puts it in his book “Leaders Eat Last”. He is talking about my generation known as the ‘baby boomers’ (born approximately between 1946-1964) :

“Disappointed and disillusioned, baby boomers are killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before. According to a 2013 study by the Centres for Disease Control, suicide rates among Baby Boomers rose nearly 30% during the last decade, making suicide one of the leading causes of death in that age group, behind only cancer and heart disease. The biggest jump in suicides was among men in their fifties – this age group experienced a whopping 50% increase. With the increase of suicides among Boomers, more people die of suicide than from car accidents.
Unless we do something, my fear is that it is going to get worse. The problem is that in 20 to 30 years when our youngest generation grows up and takes charge of government and business, its members will have grown up using Facebook, prescription drugs or online support groups as their primary coping mechanisms rather than relying on real support groups: biological bonds of friendship and loving relationships. I predict we will see a rise in depression, prescription drug abuse, suicide and other anti-social behaviours.”

This is serious stuff!

If we can understand the steps that can lead to such a negative state of affairs we can do something about it. The good news is that we already do!

How to Fail and Lose Well Part 1

We have been looking at how one of the most important life lessons not taught in current education systems around the world is how to cope with failure. That was one of the key points from Sir Ken Robinson’s hugely popular TED talk about How Schools Kill Creativity. There is a lot out there about success and how to be a success – we have even looked and discussed this in previous blog posts.

photo copyBut there is no school curriculum, or learning syllabus, as far as I know, entitled ‘How to cope with Failure.’

Here is how a writer on leadership, J. Wallace Hamilton has put it:

“The increase of suicides, alcoholism and even some forms of nervous breakdown is evidence that many people are training for success when they should be training for failure. Failure is far more common than success; poverty is more prevalent than wealth; and disappointment more normal than arrival.”

I find those sobering words and they instinctively make sense. The truth is that in life the issue is not if you will have problems, setbacks and difficulties, but how are you going to deal with them when they come? And as certain as night follows day, those setbacks will come.

What is the main difference between people who achieve and people who are average in the outcomes they produce with their lives?

 

4 Life Lessons I have Learnt from my Dad

My Dad recently turned 80. We organised a celebration party for him, inviting a number of old friends and relatives who have been a part of my parents’ lives in England over the last few decades. It was a wonderfully special time. In the last couple of years Dad had not been in good health, but we are very grateful that his bypass surgery has been successful and given him a new lease of life.

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With that in mind, this is a short life history of my Dad along with the lessons I have learnt from him.

How schools kill creativity Part 2

We have been looking at this fascinating talk by Sir Ken Robinson that is provocatively titled, “How Schools Kill Creativity“.

If you have not been able to watch it  yet I would encourage you to take 20 minutes out of your schedule to understand the important points he makes. If you have already seen it then watching it again I am sure would still give you valuable insights for your own life and those who you care about.

I live in Britain which is notoriously famous for being suspicious of hype (and often rightly so), but I make no exaggeration when I say that understanding and applying what Robinson is saying could be powerfully transformational.