Fortress Press

The Mystery of God and Suffering: Lament, Trust, and Awe

The Mystery of God and Suffering

Lament, Trust, and Awe

Kenneth R. Overberg SJ (Author)


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Humans have long searched for an adequate answer to an age-old question: If God is good, why do we suffer? An entire book of the Bible, Job, is dedicated to the problem of God and human suffering. Theologians across continents and centuries have debated the intricacies, inconsistencies, and assumptions the question elicits. And of course, many have turned to Jesus's own suffering, and his horrible death at the cross, in search of understanding. All too often, the resulting approaches to the mystery of suffering, though linked to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and traditions, fail to satisfy contemporary hearts and minds.

The Mystery of God and Suffering draws guidance from the Gospel of John and the letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians, and focuses on God's overflowing love in creation as a foundation for understanding Jesus's death and its implications for those who follow him. This work offers an alternative vision, one emphasizing incarnation over atonement, for all those who find themselves uneasy or even oppressed by the notion of a vindictive God who demands the suffering and death of his son. The Mystery of God and Suffering also speaks to a larger audience, comprised of all those who suffer and search for meaning in their suffering. With a focus on the eternal concepts of life and love that are not simply integral to but inseparable from a God who is good, as well as on insights of believers through the ages, The Mystery of God and Suffering offers wise guidance for our journey into the abyss of suffering.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9781506440040
  • Format Paperback
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 100
  • Publication Date January 7, 2020


Sound theology in a very readable style.

"'How can we hold together a good and gracious God with the harsh reality of suffering?' Kenneth R. Overberg responds to this perennial question with compassion and insight rooted in the Scriptures, encouraging thoughtful and prayerful pondering and action. This is sound theology in a very readable style."

Richard Rohr, OFM | Center for Action and Contemplation

Reflections that touch on the fundamental problem of the greater part of humanity today.

"Kenneth R. Overberg's book deals with a perennial theme, God and suffering, including reflections that touch on the fundamental problem of the greater part of humanity today: the suffering caused by oppression."

Jon Sobrino, SJ | Jose Simeon Canas Central American University (UCA El Salvador)

Kenneth R. Overberg delivers a triple epitome.

"In The Mystery of God and Suffering: Lament, Trust, and Awe, Kenneth R. Overberg delivers a triple epitome. First, he cuts to the quick, honestly confronting the experience of suffering and engaging the agonizing shocks of a sadistic God, the vertigo of abandonment, and the prospect of ultimate nothingness. Second, he opens a vein of gold, prospected by prophets and sages, a minority report of hope and solidarity, a current of life invigorating the words and deeds of Jesus, all charged with the conviction that the pulse of compassion beats deeper than despair and that trust unlocks the heart of the universe. Third, in this recapitulation of his lifelong efforts, Overberg embeds this inspiring vision in our daily lives and dilemmas. His conversation with a diversity of voices (from Job and Scotus to Johnson, Teilhard, Wink, and Rahner) offers us numerous ways in which we can face, lament, and reimagine our pain. We are left to wonder about a God who never ceases to hold us most dear."

Arthur J. Dewey | Xavier University

Accessible, clear, and helpful.

"Like the woman in Overberg's story, I, too, have asked 'Why did Jesus have to die?' and struggled with the church's teaching that an angry God required it to atone for humanity's sinfulness. In The Mystery of God and Suffering, Overberg does a superb job of tracing church teaching on atonement theology and, more importantly, explaining contemporary theologians' different interpretations––what he calls the 'minority view'––that portray a loving God who desires healing and salvation, not suffering. His book is accessible, clear, and helpful in offering an alternative that is hopeful and healthy for those who are suffering or those, like me, have struggled with the 'majority view' of a vengeful God."

Heidi Schlumpf | National Catholic Reporter