A family member of mine recently went through a tragic loss and I found myself wondering where the goodness of God was in all this. I remember saying to myself, “That’s just not fair!” It was shortly after this that I had the opportunity to review two books, both on the subject of pain, suffering and the providence of God. It’s amazing to me how some books that we happen upon are needed at just that particular moment in life. These books – one was John Piper’s newest book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence – were a great help and reminder to me of God’s sovereignty and goodness.
The other book was John Townsend’s Where is God? In it, Townsend seeks to gently walk the reader through some of the answers to the book’s title question, “Where is God?” In asking this question, Townsend notes that there are three different questions that could be at the heart of the matter. In the question of power, we want to know and be assured that God is powerful enough to be in control of life’s circumstances. In the question of presence, we simply want to know and believe in the comforting presence of God, to experience a close relational intimacy with Him. The third question is a protest, a cry of anguish, “a statement of how badly they hate what is going on.” He further discusses why bad things happen and boils it down to one thing: sin. Sin committed by us, sin committed against us or sin from a broken world system.
The book is organized around three principles: 1. God is for you, 2. Your experience matters and 3. The Bible is our source for understanding God’s ways in hard times. Building on these principles, Townsend takes the reader through various reasons why and how we look for God in trying times. The chapters that had the most impact on me were the following ones that addressed various aspects of God’s work. While each one was relatively short, they were packed with helpful insights.
- The God who suffers with me – in our suffering, God comes along beside us, empathizing and identifying with our struggles, having compassion on us.
- The God who works behind the scenes – God acts for us and for our good in ways that we may not see or understand.
- The God who transforms you – God uses our trials to strengthen us and draw us closer to Himself.
- The God who connects you with others – sometimes our difficult times result in new relationships and stronger bonds with others and reducing our own perceived self-sufficiency.
- The God of faith when there are no answers – in Townsend’s words, “As someone who lives in faith, make it OK for yourself to say, ‘I don’t know why….’ God sometimes does reveal over time the redemptive meaning behind our struggles as we are better able to look back over the seasons of our lives with more perspective. But sometimes He does not. Sometimes we must trust.” (pp.138-139)
This book doesn’t necessarily argue for God’s existence. It isn’t a philosophical or even a theological book. It assumes God’s existence. It draws more from counseling and psychology while applying Biblical truths. Some chapters of the book seemed a little wordy and perhaps could have been more concise. Additionally, parts of Townsend’s theology felt a little lacking (such as saying “God gives up all the control He could use and puts Himself in an extremely humble and vulnerable position.”) However, there are plenty of points made throughout the book that are both good and helpful. What Townsend offers in this book is an explanation of what God is doing through hard times and how to find hope in Him. Recommended: Yes
Next Friday, February 5 2010, I’ll be giving away a copy of Townsend’s book, Where is God?. The deadline for entering the drawing is Thursday night by midnight, February 4, 2010. To be entered in the drawing to win Where is God?, you can do one or more of the following. For each method you use, you’ll receive one entry into the drawing (3 entries possible).
- Post a comment below.
- Link to this post from your blog.
- On Twitter, RT “@Eskypades: Book Giveaway! Enter to win at http://wp.me/pzfPF-a4”
I’ll randomly select the winner sometime Friday afternoon, February 5, 2010. (Giveaway is open to US residents only.)
(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a review copy of this book.)