When I studied at Dallas Theological Seminary and took a course on suffering and evil with Dr. Larry Waters, Randy Alcorn’s book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil was one of the required texts. At the end of the semester I signed off that I had read this book in its entirety.
However, I used the term “read” loosely. Yes, every sentence was visualized and streamed through by my eyes. However, what I did miss out was adequately digesting most of what I read. Have you ever been so hungry that you gulped down a chunk of meat or food without really chewing it properly? You can literally feel your throat stretching as it cinches its way down your esophagus. You think, next time I need to chew that better. Well, that’s kinda how it was when I initially read this book. So I bookmarked it in my head to return back to it one day. Well, that day finally came mid January.
I have been working on reading this book since then, and while it has put me behind on my goals, it was worth the sacrifice of time to properly enjoy the feast of truth that is densely packed in this book.
This book is no comic book, but for the one who is disciplined to stay the course in reading through the nearly 500 pages, he will be rewarded with encouraging insight that will both challenge the doubting heart and strengthen the longing heart that seeks to find a final answer and cure for the problem of evil and suffering in our world.
In the end, after I finished the last sentence, I felt that I had climbed a theological mountain that has satisfied and strengthened my faith and better prepared me for the much harder journey that life eventually will bring my way. I also found myself wishing that I had taken others along with me on the journey through this book. People who are staggering in their faith. People railed by anxiety and depression because circumstances beyond their control have bitten the joy from their life because of suffering. People who are angry and irritated with God or who are angry and irritated at those who believe in him because they cannot possibly fathom a loving and powerful God who allows such terrible suffering in this life.
If you are on a journey where the sweetness of your adventure has been sabotaged by the wretchedness of evil, then this book is for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are well grounded in the faith, are new to the faith, or think that faith is a crutch created by man thousands of years ago, this book will stretch your thinking beyond the walls of your religion 101 class you took in college. In the following, I present 5 compelling reasons why you should read this book.
- When it comes to solving the problem of evil and suffering, you owe it to yourself to consider which flavor of Kool Aid you are drinking. Whether you think you are a person of great faith or if you have no faith at all, once the bitterness of injustice, or suffering or death have crept into your life, you too will question if God is good or if he is all powerful. We must evaluate the conclusions we arrive to when we try to answer such difficult questions on our own or whether these answers have been spoon fed to us by a professor who has an agenda to capsize the faith of his students and to promote naturalism. Too often, the idea of science and faith are presented as exclusive to one another rather than complementary. Some of the most brilliant scientists today and in history are believers in God who have all suffered. Yet, they do not drink the Kool Aid that says that there is no God in the midst of evil and suffering. Randy Alcorn’s book pours us endless cups of the wine of God’s grace in his discussion on the issue of evil and suffering. It is a much better alternative than the cheap Kool Aid that is given to us at some of our higher institutions of learning or media.
- Your eyes are jaded and you are not able to comprehend the problem of evil and suffering on your own. One of the biggest problems in our culture and church today is that when evil and suffering hit so close to home, one of our natural God given instincts is to take flight from what threatens us. Consequently, we isolate in our thinking and we are unable to adequately explain or understand our own situation. This inevitably leads us to doubt God. If God is Good gives you an “outside” perspective on your difficult circumstances that is informed by extensive research and a community of people whose personal stories of faith through suffering have substantiated the truth that this book so profoundly explains. Before you complete your evaluation of your personal suffering, this book will certainly be helpful to open your eyes to new and different possibilities to help you have a more accurate understanding of evil and suffering in your life.
- You need hope. Let’s face it. We love to party. We love the thrill of ups and downs on a roller coaster. But eventually the ride ends. We get off and the amusement park closes. Living life apart from God is fun and enjoyable at times- much like a roller coaster. When God doesn’t interfere with your life by giving you all those pesky and irritating rules of life, you get to do what you want. And mostly you seek pleasure. You go up on the roller coaster. Eventually, you go back down. The problem is that what once brought you pleasure doesn’t satisfy like it used to. On to the next ride: To the next man or woman. To the next sexual experience. To the next chemical “high”. To the next video game. To the the next entertainment that will distract us from the emptiness that is inside. To the next research project that you can use to disprove God. To the next ______________ (fill in the blank). All in order to justify your lifestyle and to deny your need for God’s existence. All to numb the pain of your isolation and emptiness that you feel when the ride is over. And we do this throughout our entire life. But one day the park closes. We leave this life. And you and I need to know that our life is meaningful and justified. Randy Alcorn’s book gives us a basis for understanding evil and suffering, takes a good look at its origins, nature and consequences, brilliantly rebuts the non-theist view, and provides a strong framework for understanding the world around us. If you buy into Alcorn’s argument, I promise you will have what you need most in this life: hope.
- You need and want the God that Randy talks about in this book. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Atheist. Every human heart seeks to avoid the pain of evil and suffering and tries to explain the world that we live in. We all want to live a life of significance and worth, knowing that our life mattered. We all want to be loved, knowing that we are valued and valuable. We all want justice, knowing that our sacrifice and suffering is worth it. Knowing that perpetrators of evil will be held to account for their actions. Knowing that the faithful and righteous will be rewarded. Nobody likes it when the enemy wins. There is good news. If God is Good, provides a solid answer to the problem of evil and suffering. If you have ever wondered how God’s sovereignty can allow the meaningful choices of man to exist, wait until you read about the Drama that Randy describes in this book. A God who is exhaustive in power, knowledge, goodness and love. Who works through the unpacking drama of history to bring about his redemptive plan to completely and ultimately deal with the problem of evil: heaven and hell. Heaven- a place of eternal grace to unworthy but grateful children. Hell- where eternal sovereign justice is exacted upon evildoers. Randy shares helpful insight into why God doesn’t seem to do more to restrain evil and suffering. Why God delays justice. Why God doesn’t always explain his reasons. Why God allows suffering. And how to live meaningfully in suffering. In the depth of your soul, you truly long to have the idiot evil people in this life done away with, and you truly long to be set free from the garbage and filth that we experience in this world. The God that Alcorn describes is a God who will do just that. He is the one you are longing for, whether you know it or not.
- You want a better answer for your problems than the one you have. I guarantee you that the answer to evil and suffering that is given in this book is better than what you have on your own. You might not believe Alcorn’s answer, even after you read. But at least you will have the satisfaction of further cementing your own interpretation and answer to evil and suffering. And for that reason alone, it might be worth your while to seriously consider the thoughtful and careful words you will read in this book. I challenge you to take a highlighter and pen and take notes as you read. I don’t know if it is the “best” answer ever recorded to the dilemma of evil and suffering that we face, but it certainly is one of the best that I have discovered in our time today. Even if you are an atheist, wouldn’t you like to know your opponents playbook? Have you ever taken the time to see if there is a better answer to your questions than the ones you have right now? How many of us assume an answer and then commit to it because someone agrees with, and thus, substantiates our position? We all do that. But when it comes to your journey to discover the answer to something so great, isn’t there always room to discover and learn more? You might have a great answer to the problem of evil and suffering, but I promise If God is Good will help you even more to the answer you commit yourself to in regards to this question. You will have a better answer than what you currently have.