Randy Alcorn thoroughly dissects the question of, “Why bad things happen to people?” It’s a tome of knowledge and comfort. Not all of his words are what we want to hear, but I didn’t find anything unbiblical about his explanations. It took me several months to finish this book, but it’s very eye-opening.
He asks, “What if suffering is God’s invitation to trust him? And to hope for a better world,” on the back cover copy. Suffering isn’t always fair. Sometimes, we have earned suffering as consequences to a bad decision, but other people’s consequences make us suffer, too. A drunk driver hit a family and a young woman had to learn how to walk and talk after being in a coma (see Tyndale’s Jenny’s Story). Instead of the young woman blaming God, she sang hymns while in a coma and when she came out of it she became an inspiration for many.
I am reminded of a friend who told me of the value of long-suffering and how many flee from it. What if something is difficult and we could have stayed and made a difference? Are we fleeing the situation without seeing if God wants us to stay? Ministry is tough and nowhere near comfortable. Yet, there’s a strange zeal in my heart at staying and working away at people’s hard shells; praying for them. Life isn’t comfortable and the consequences of someone else’s actions could have driven me to a new church or a new town; instead, I stayed. If I hadn’t stayed, I wouldn’t have grown, become a better person, and learned endurance. That’s the benefit of long-suffering.
“I only mean that although my experiences brought me genuine pain, with the passing of time and gaining of perspective, they no longer do. The same is true of several years of lawsuits, job loss, and uncertainty my family experienced two decades ago. Oh, I remember that we experienced pain, I remember some of the feelings, but what I am left with now is the joy of what God did for us in those days. Similarly, many women remember the pain of giving birth, yet today can recall those times without the suffering reccurring. (They can tell the story without reaching for a pain reliever.)” – Pg. 203
We have become a culture of church-hoppers, situation-leavers, or people who, rather than work through something, would rather run away before the situation rips open the wound to reveal something in us that needs to change. In his book, Randy explains thoroughly erroneous theology, Adam and Eve, and various other things as he explores evil in this world and why God would allow suffering. Suffering is a strange thing to call a blessing, but when I look back I see some of the whys of my suffering. It enables me to look in the mirror and know the person I began as in this world is not who I am now; for that I am thankful. Without the suffering to rub away the selfishness, coldness, and pride, I would not be able to love as much as I imperfectly do now.
I gave this book five stars. It’s essential for anyone who questions God’s love through the difficulty of their circumstances and for a seeker who wants more than feel-good music in his life to direct him to God, but the meat from scripture to strengthen him through life. This book provides a lot of answers and inspires still more questions. But what is God without mystery? Who has all the answers?
No one I know.