Some of you may remember the tragedy of a hiker being trapped and freezing to death in Mt. Hood four years ago. That man, Kelly James, was the brother of my former RTS-Orlando professor and president Frank James. He is now the Provost, or “Head Shot” at Gordon Conwell Seminary.
Frank James gave classes on church history, but also led a 1 hour class called “Classics of Personal Devotion” my last year. The theme of that particular class was on suffering. So we read books like C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, D.A. Carson’s How Long O Lord: Reflections on suffering and evil, and even Ellie Weisel’s Night (which I had to read in Jr. High, High school, college and seminary-I could probably tell you what happens on each page by now).
If you want something raw and honest, and “Gosh I don’t know if I’d have said that to or about God, much less wrote it down” type stuff, it doesn’t get any better than Lewis’ A Grief Observed. It’s real, honest, and gritty spirtuality.
One of the critiques of the Carson book, which I found helpful, was that it was more textbook type stuff, and not something you could give someone in the midst of great suffering and loss. For that, you would opt for Lewis’ book. But as far as preparation for suffering, which we all ought to be doing (because its something Jesus actually promises us), the Carson book gives some helpful framework.
Then it just hit me, reading this article by Frank James, which is simply his reflection on both God’s presence and absence (yes God can intentionally be distant from us at times, just as He did with the Psalmists to teach us something) that we had all been discussing together what it looks like to suffer. He was simply facilitating the discussion.
Now, in this article, it is his turn to be the teacher. But he does so simply by raising the question: “Where was God when my brother froze to death?” I highly commend these reflections to you. In the end, I wonder if those hours studying suffering in the classroom helped prepare him for this. Maybe or maybe not, but having a solid foundation may give us a more robust Jesus to hold on to during the night.