Conversatio Divina

Conversations Journal Fall 2011

Conversations 9.2: The Problem of Pain

As someone who has the privilege of having a front row seat into the ways people deal with pain, whether it is the pain that comes from trauma, grief over the loss of a loved one, the loss of a marriage, or any number of things that bring people into a therapist’s office—I savored this issue on the Problem of Pain. I’m grateful for this compilation essays on this topic, and I think it will be a valuable read for anyone, regardless of how pain has come to you or how you come alongside others in their pain.

The guiding image for the Conversations Journal is a large table in front of a warm fire. Seated together are representatives from the prominent tributaries of Christian spirituality—incarnational, contemplative, evangelical, holiness, charismatic, and social justice. Each is participating in a dialogue, sharing with unusual transparency about authentic transformation and why it seems so difficult actually to become like Jesus.[i]

As we delve into another issue of Conversations, let that imagery invite your presence to the table as well. This month, we’ll be studying the topic of “The Problem of Pain,” with a rerelease of the Fall 2011 issue on that subject. This journal will have a permanent home here at Conversatio, with a companion course that allows readers to take the topic a bit deeper, and journey into your own thoughts on the topic.

The editors invited voices from a variety of Christian traditions to share about pain and theodicy. Because pain is deeply particular, the essays you’ll read in this issue are personal and vulnerable. They all share about an individual’s response to the problem of pain, and they all weave the theological thread of God’s response, involvement, or presence to their pain as well. Phillip Yancey in the opening interview with Gary W. Moon, “In the World of Pain, What Good Is God?,” talks about how a near-death experience changed the way he came to know God and himself. The role of community in suffering is also discussed in this issue. Check out Pat Russell’s poignant article on her journey of depression and loss. “The Beauty of a Cracked Vessel: Living the Struggle of Pain, Depression and Loss.” Richard Foster in “Roaring Like a Lion” provides a balanced overview of the dark side of spiritual reality, Satan, and then offers practical considerations for dealing with demonic forces. In “A God Who Weeps,” Jan Johnson reminds us that we are with a God who weeps with and for us. She explores the primary images humans have for God, and how those frameworks impact our ability to allow God to be with us during painful circumstances. More on that in this month’s classroom experience. You’ll also hear from some of our faithful contributors like Larry Crabb, Ken Boa, and Mindy Caliguire.

It’s worth noting that we broke with our traditional style of cover art and included an image of the earth during the tsunami that occurred in Japan in 2011. A “God’s-eye-view” of the pain of the earth as Tara Owens writes in her introduction to feature article, “O Taste and See: A Meditation on 受難” (Japanese, “Pain”). Be sure to spend some time with Robert Spiotta’s meditation on that image and may the God of all peace speak to your pain as you engage with the reflection questions included.

The companion course for this issue is Jan Johnson’s article, “A God Who Weeps.” Visit the classroom to access the article and summary written by Joannah Sadler.

See class here.