*This is the final installment of the Summer Reading Series, designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.
From the author’s website: In his mid-thirties, Ben Palpant was suddenly reduced to an infant in a matter of a few short weeks–learning again to read and walk and feed himself. With no clear diagnosis, he was left alone with his questions: “Who am I?” and “Why is this happening to me?”
Excerpt from Chapter Three: Calamity Come:
No child in the history of mankind, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up, has ever responded, “I want to suffer.” I, for one, did not.
C.S. Lewis called pain God’s megaphone. John Piper has called pain God’s pedagogy. “God, I am listening. Teach me. Speak into this bewilderment.”
After my meltdown in the office, everyone important to me encouraged me to stay home. My wife, father, mother, boss, and friends seemed to conspire against my ambitions. Soon my head began bobbing involuntarily and tremors gradually took over my torso. And then my arms and even my legs shook. My hands curled in on themselves and my tongue thickened in my mouth. I would sit like that for hours at a time.
My stability dissolved under the strain of suffering. In my suffering, I forgot that pain has a context. It is framed by the Master Storyteller. I am imagined: before I kicked against my mother’s womb, before the nurse pricked my heel and I cried out, before I threw a snowball and squealed with delight, God imagined all of it.
He imagined the death of grubs and the death of the chicks that ate them. Such pain is part of his story. Thomas Merton suggested that the mystery of God eclipses our suffering.
Pain is no case against God. No matter the cause. No matter the degree. Suffering does not call into question the existence of a good God; rather, it calls into question our lives.
I am a part of his story. I am the epiphany of God. I am a character whose life events have a purpose for me and for the story. Every event has purpose in the author’s larger design, even the bark of a dog, the death of a baby bird, or a small black coffin for a stillborn child.
He knows the falling of a sparrow and he knew the collapse of a mind. God does not look at our suffering from afar. It is an intimate event to him. He is the author of every detail, speaking the suffering as it occurs.