Author: Todd Billings

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“As strange as it seems, coming to terms with our limits as dying creatures is a life-giving path.” After five years of research, conversations, writing, and edit after edit, The End of the Christian Life is now out and available! I’m grateful to so many students, pastors, scholars, cancer patients and others who helped to make this book possible. The writing process was a challenging one — as I integrated my theological explorations and questions with the [nonfiction] stories of various friends and acquaintances who have died. Hopefully, the result is a book that has theological substance and existential power. It’s available now in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. The last five years have felt like a quest — often urgent, sometimes winding — and I’ve discovered many wonderful thought-companions on the journey. So, in addition to the book release, today we’re releasing the first two episodes in a six-episode podcast...

I'm thrilled to announce that my next book, The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live, is available for pre-order! You can check out the trailer for the book below, along with a few of the endorsements. In addition, for those subscribed to my mailing list, you are invited to apply for the Launch Team – able access to a digital copy of the book in the first week of August! Details are available through this link, and applications need to be received in the next few days. I often ask seminary graduates about their biggest challenge in ministry which involves the intersection of theology and practice. The most common response? Death and dying. Advising families on medical decisions, funerals, comforting parents who have lost a child – the examples are many. In light of this, and some of my own experience as a...

It has been an odd winter here in “snowy west Michigan.” When I walk outside, I can expect a “crunch” when I walk in a nearby park -- but as likely as not, it will be the crunch of leaves rather than snow. For a couple of days, snow will fall and my children will rejoice. But then the sun comes out, the weather gets warm, and it acts like spring. It’s January. I know it's not spring yet. But this weather can be confusing. Is it time to burrow in, to hibernate for the winter? Is it time for the grass to start growing again? When will we start to see the animals come out for spring with their young? My kids have been debating questions like these. Both of them love winter, but the seesaw, back and forth, has left them disoriented...

It was a decade in the making… and so it has been a joy to hear from readers about my newest book, Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table. I’ve received quite a few comments from readers who are surprised -- even shocked -- at the multifaceted character of the Lord’s Table for helping congregations move more deeply into the wide breadth of the gospel. If you’ve had a chance to read it, consider joining the discussion of the book with a Goodreads or an Amazon review to share your thoughts more broadly. I’ve also been privileged to join in some broader conversations related to the book. One of those was through a Christianity Today article back in February which focused upon an argument that I made in my chapter on hope. It doesn’t get at the “thesis” of my book, but it’s a section that caught...

We like to lump people into categories -- nationality, race, social class, etc. One sociological study after another classifies, analyzes, dissects. But one thing that all of us have in common is this: we are dying. How much do we reflect upon this reality? On a day-to-day level, do we live as if our days will have no end? The Psalmists suggest that many of us do: You have made my days a mere handbreadth;     the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath,     even those who seem secure. “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;     in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth     without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (Ps. 39:5-7, NIV)  This last year, I've been honored to lead a group of pastors in congregational ministry through a series of colloquies focused upon this question: How can we cultivate genuine resurrection hope...

In our suffering, we find comfort in God's impassibility Note: This last week, First Things Magazine opened an article of mine for non-subscribers that was published in December of 2014. It includes material that was adapted from chapter nine of Rejoicing in Lament. I focus upon Christ's lament on the cross as the culmination of all biblical laments. In the end, I make that case that a commonly misunderstood doctrine -- divine impassibility -- can provide deep comfort to the suffering. This is a section from that article. When Christ on the cross laments with the Psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” his desolation means that when we pray this ourselves, we are not in a free fall, even when it feels that way. We can utter a cry of unspeakable anguish and yet maintain a profound hope, because, in Christ, God himself has taken on our human suffering, including our alienation...

As Christians, we often pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in the hospital. This is as it should be. But how do we pray? And how do we pray when we are in the hospital bed ourselves? I've reflected a lot on these questions since my cancer diagnosis 3.5 years ago. It has not been in the abstract, but has related to my own praying, and praying for others. In the fall, Leadership Journal asked for me to address the question of how to pray for those with incurable conditions, in particular. You can find my article in response here. This last week, I published a book review of a small book which takes on the question in a more general sense: how God meets us in the hospital, and how to pray in that context. The book is John Piper's newest, Lessons from a Hospital Bed. On the one hand,...

As we approach the season of Lent, are there ways that you and your congregation are going to journey with Christ to the cross and resurrection? I’m often asked about how congregations can incorporate lament into their worship and their life. There are a number of ways to do this: such as recovering the reading and memorizing of the Psalms, and providing space in worship not only for confession, but also songs and prayers of lament. “How long, O Lord?” This question echoes all of our cries over the injustice, loss and unbelief in the world and in our lives. I sometimes suggest taking a particular season to rediscover the Christian practice of lament as well. This last fall, I discovered that quite a few groups were using Rejoicing in Lament for small group or congregation-wide studies. I am deeply grateful that it can be a gift on the path of both rejoicing and lamenting in the Lord....

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I’m not sure what to what to think of this Christmas jingle on the radio. But I do know that Advent and Christmas are double-sided – both joyous and humbling. It’s not about celebrating that all is well in the world and our lives right now. It is celebrating that “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Why do we celebrate a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord? Because we are sinners in a disordered world. We need a Savior. We need a Messiah anointed with God’s Spirit. We need a Lord in the midst of our lordless, disordered times. We await, we rejoice. We lament, we hope. “Come, Lord Jesus!” In the last three years since my own cancer diagnosis, the sharpness of these gospel themes – of both rejoicing and...

Is Medicine Our Master? I've been doing quite a bit of reflecting upon the meaning of our mortality as Christians in our contemporary cultural moment. Some of it has been preparing for the Carl Henry lecture that I will deliver at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 21, entitled: "Hope for Mortals: The Church’s Witness in the Midst of Dying and Death." Click here for details. One book that I've found very helpful in giving a portrait of how dying in the contemporary West has been turned into a medical experience is Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande is a Harvard surgeon, and a keen observer of the way in which our society has increasing asked for medicine to "fix" an "unfixable" problem: our mortality. It is a profound meditation upon the gift, yet limits, of medicine. This has influenced my recent reflections upon the meaning of mortality...