Yesterday I read an entire 160 page book in under 20 minutes.
Don't be too impressed. Although admittedly, I think the newest book by Rob Bell should be read within a much longer, slower, God-filled span of time. I was at Barnes and Noble, and didn't want to submit to the $35 price tag. So I sat down and read it.
It's a great book, and I understand the merits of "artistic endeavors" that are a part of it, but I certainly hope a much cheaper edition comes out at some point. That last sentence can also be read, "If you want to buy it for me, go ahead." One word of caution/opinion - there is a word or two within the book that I think he could have done without. It reduces the potential audience and usage of the book's powerful message. But that was his choice.
The book is a reminder that God has transformed how we relate to suffering, and the human condition. Not advice on how to "get over it", or how to "receive God's gift of removing us from harmful things", etc. But an actual reminder that within the context of the human lives we find ourselves in...God brings new life.
He uses an illustration of a large crowd. If someone said "everyone here who has endured/experienced cancer, stand up"....many would stand, and an instant bond of community would be felt as they looked around the room. If someone said, "everyone here who has been to Disney World, stand up"...many would stand, but the bond of community would not quite be the same.
Suffering draws us together. Gives us opportunity for response. Opportunity for community.
The early church lost a great leader. Someone who loved them dearly, and whom they loved. Someone they had given up much to follow. He suffered greatly, many of them forced to watch and hear about it. When they saw the symbol of the cross, it was a symbol of a community that had experienced suffering.
It continues to be, for us. God continues to offer us His way of relating to suffering, and the brokenness of creation. May we be a people who do not neglect, nor unhealthily focus on our suffering. May we receive from God new ways to relate to our suffering, and offer that same life and freedom to suffer to those around us. May that lead us to be a people who Love well...