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If God Is Good

posted Feb 26, 2011, 11:46 AM by Charlie Olson
Randy Alcorn, best-selling author and the director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, takes on the age-old question of suffering in this well-written book.  The fly-leaf summary puts it this way: "How can we reconcile a good and all-powerful God with the terrible evil and suffering we see in this world?  This is the single greatest dilemma in human existence.  And it, in turn, raises other significant questions every believer must wrestle with."  Many authors have attempted to answer this question, but few have managed to develop a thoroughly biblical, logically arranged, yet intensely personal story of God's plan in human suffering.

Few people consciously develop a theology of suffering, and the result is often a damaged faith when suffering comes.  Without realizing it, many assume that the reason for a relationship with God is to escape the pain and suffering in this world.  One of the women he writes about used to think, "I want to stay close to God so nothing bad happens."  When six of her children died in a tragic accident, she discovered that she needed to be close to God in order to survive.  This book uses personal stories like hers to set the stage, then takes the reader to the Word of God to help interpret those stories rightly.

The author writes, "while traveling this long road, I found something surprising: the journey was not only rewarding, but fascinating, enlightening, and at times downright enjoyable.  I know it sounds counterintuitive--shouldn't it depress someone to meditate on evil and suffering?  In fact, I'd already seen enough evil and suffering to feel deeply troubled.  What I needed was perspective.  Instead of being disheartened, I'm encouraged."  He delivers exactly what we all need--a new perspective on the role of suffering in God's plans.  One of the jewels of wisdom he reveals is that God's people will be better off eternally because they suffer temporarily.  None of us enjoys suffering, but if we can understand that God never wastes our pain, and always has a good purpose in mind, it will help us to trust Him in the midst of our pain. 

Ultimately, he acknowledges that we will not always be able to answer the question of "why," because we are finite beings, and God's purposes are infinite.  Even if God explained all of His reasons, we would be incapable of understanding them, just as a child cannot understand why his parents make some decisions.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says "the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."  Those things we are unable to understand, God expects us to accept by faith, trusting that He knows and has everything under control.  This is why we are commanded to walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).  God has given us just enough explanation in His Word for us to catch glimpses of His purposes, and to be encouraged to carry on.

In many ways, this book is an entire library in one volume.  It's sheer size (500+ pages) may be intimidating to some readers, but it is broken into sections, each of which could easily stand as independent books.  For readers who are interested in a theological treatise, this book will not disappoint, and includes a detailed scripture index.  For readers who are more interested in specific questions about suffering, a topical index is included, and the various chapter titles clearly address the most commonly asked questions.  A study guide is available, as well as an introductory book that would be suitable as a gift to someone struggling with a loss.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review in exchange for my honest opinion.
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