Christians and Atheists alike voice the same question over and over again; if God is good then why are evil and suffering so prevalent? The believer may be led to think that the life of the Christian is to be free of pain and suffering only to find that, in most cases, the opposite is true. The Atheist uses the reality of struggle and horror as a foundational argument against the existence of God only to discover adversity strengthening the belief of the followers of Jesus. Is suffering a punishment for sin or an experience that God could readily remove from the world? Is there a bigger picture seen by the Creator of the universe where our troubles serve a larger purpose that we simply cannot see? Randy Alcorn enters this swirling discussion with his excellent new book If God is Good and the core challenge to the reader, what if suffering is God’s way of asking us to trust Him?
The problems of evil’s existence and the suffering of human beings are extraordinarily complex subjects but Alcorn has devoted 500 pages to examining the problems from numerous different angles. He looks at evil and suffering from the perspective of a believer and as a nonbeliever and examines these problems historically, theologically, and philosophically. Alcorn’s writing is what sets this book apart from denser scholastic examinations. He writes for the Christian struggling to understand why God allows evil and suffering to continue in the world. Each of the topical sections is divided into short chapters that address a single issue or question making the book a go-to resource that the reader can open to a specific topic and begin to find the answer.
Randy writes with a pastoral heart and an eye for connecting the truths of Scripture with vignettes of real life. Readers can often encounter a verse such as Isaiah 48:10—See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.–and be unable to understand how it applies to their lives. Would God actually do this? Would he actually allow us to suffer pain and strife for His glory? When the pain is so close and personal, this seems to be anathema but this is where the book shines. Alcorn’s special talent lies in finding just the right illustration to bring the truth home and he puts that talent to great use throughout these chapters. For example, by showing how the pain of the death of a missionary looks up close, Alcorn can then pull us back to see the effect that he or she had on numbers of people who witnessed their faithfulness and came to know the God they worshipped and embodied.
This is a must-have book for anyone who questions the issue of suffering. This will find a prominent place on my shelf so that I can refer to it often. It is accessible, well structured, and so moving that I often could only read short sections before putting it aside to think about what I had just read. If you have been fortunate enough to have avoided struggle and strife in your life, reading this book will prepare you for the inevitable moment in which it arrives because it will. If your life has been marked by great tragedy, struggle, pain, and suffering, read this book alongside your Bible in order to understand how your pain serves God, His eternal plan, and His glory.
For more information about If God is Good, go here.