I posted yesterday that I am working with a wonderful editor to finalize the book “Gold in the Road”, the story of my journey through the cancer storm. I Yesterday I included an excerpt from the book about my process of developing a “suffering theology” — one that is both Biblical and practical. Here is more from the book. I’ll post the final part of this section soon. Would love your comments.
It was a memory of another time and another situation which spurred my study on the topic of suffering. The memory was of a meeting in North Hollywood, California in a large, lovely church. It was a gathering of Anglican Christians who were committed to God and to His Word but who, because of our stand for the Gospel, would find ourselves at odds with our denomination which had strayed from sound theology revealed to us in the Bible. We were being visited by an Anglican bishop from Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Henry Orombi. He was the man who would later become the Archbishop, the national head of the entire Church of Uganda, a church which had known profound suffering during the rule of President Idi Amin and subsequently through persecution by Islamic rebels. Bishop Orombi was a tall, striking African man with a deep and resonate voice. He stood before this gathering and said these memorable words. “If you stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some of you will lose your buildings and properties. Some of your clergy will lose your pensions. You will suffer.” Then Bishop Orombi laughed a deep, long, rumbling African laugh. “Yes,” he said slowly but without hesitation. “You will suffer and it will be good for you.”
At the time, these U.S. Anglican Christians had no clue what Bishop Orombi was talking about and why, for goodness sake, he would laugh as he told us that we would suffer and that suffering would be good for us! But what he said came true. Many of us suffered the loss of buildings, properties, pensions. But the suffering produced more faithful lay people, more faithful clergy, and a new and more faithful Anglican denomination in North America. We did suffer and that suffering, as Bishop Orombi had prophesied, had indeed been good for us.
This was then the backdrop of my desire to grasp more fully how suffering works in the life of someone who recognizes God as the One who walks with them through all seasons of life. I spent much time in studying suffering from a Christian and Biblical perspective. I looked to the writings of Joni Eareckson Tada, whose own life of suffering after a diving accident as a teenager rendered her a quadriplegic. Joni Eareckson Tada has become an icon of hope for suffering Christians. In her book, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty she explores how suffering, when held in the hands of a sovereign God, can bring about the fulfillment of what Jesus spoke about in John 14 when He said, “Anyone who has faith in me will do … even greater things than these.”
Tada’s perspective is that we often think that statement is saying that the followers of Jesus will do great miracles, that supernatural healings will accompany us. Yet, what Jesus was talking about in the context of this passage was the advancement of His Kingdom on this earth. Even in Joni Eareckson Tada’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2010 on top of her suffering with quadriplegia and horrific chronic pain, she saw greater advancement of the Kingdom all around her. In the technicians, nurses, or clinicians she encountered in her cancer storm, she saw amazing occasions to share Christ. In her experience, suffering led her to new opportunities to touch the lives of those who were hungry and thirsty for Jesus. Her suffering mattered for the Kingdom. Likewise in the teachings of pastor Tim Keller in his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, I found a similar suffering theology. Keller, who faced his own storm with cancer (thyroid) and the questions that occur when death comes knocking on our door, was extremely helpful as he unpacked suffering in the Biblical context of a loving God.
 Copyright 2010 David C. Cook
 Copyright 2013 Dutton