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Books: The problem of pain

Books | How God works in suffering, by someone who knows

Issue: "Washington Gets One Right," Dec. 6, 1997

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things have to happen at all? If God is so loving, why is there so much suffering in the world? What is the difference between his permitting a tragedy and his ordaining it? When terrible things happen, is God in cahoots with Satan? I can't think of anyone I would rather have to guide me through the Scriptures to find answers to these questions than Joni Eareckson Tada--the victim of an accident that left her paralyzed--and Steve Estes. Thankfully, that is just what they do in When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. Their book combines a practical and compassionate methodology with a biblical and pastoral theology. In dealing with the difficult subject of affliction, the authors do not dwell on the depths of man's sorrow and suffering. They focus instead on the heights of God's sovereignty and providence. Indeed, they offer their premise at the outset: "When God Weeps is not so much about affliction as it is about the only one who can unlock sense out of suffering. It's not why our afflictions matter to us (although they do), but why they matter to the Almighty." Drawing on the rich heritage bequeathed by Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin, Puritans like Hugh Latimer and Jeremiah Burroughs, and pastoral evangelists like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, they provide a stunning portrait of a God whose purposeful, providential, and particular grace is ever evident-not just even in the midst of suffering but especially in the midst of suffering. The chapters on heaven and hell are worth the price of the book alone. The stories and illustrations are a rich testimony to God's everlasting provision for all of us in the most difficult days of our lives. And the comprehensive appendix cataloging scriptural teaching on affliction is a powerful tool that every pastor, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or Bible study coordinator will treasure. Thomas Carlyle once quipped, "No book that will not improve by repeated readings deserves to be read at all." If Carlyle was right, then When God Weeps is a real rarity-I read it twice in a single weekend; I just couldn't put it down. And thus I discovered anew, "Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

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