The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering, By, Randy Alcorn, WaterBrook Multnomah, 2010, 117 Pages, ISBN: 978-1-60142-343-6, $12.99
Have you or someone you loved experienced a dark valley of grief, inexplicable illness, or emotional despair that turned into a dark night of the soul? Where you begged God to stop the pain, heal the illness or, at the very least, provide hope in a devastating situation?
I’ve experienced that darkness where devout prayers go unanswered and negativity takes root, with thoughts like did God hear my prayer, see my tears, or does He even care? It’s in those dark times when doubt and fear collide with hope that faith is tested.
Randy Alcorn, bestselling author of Heaven, wrote The Goodness of God, a “specially focused condensation of If God is Good” to equip readers to find God in the midst of pain and suffering. It’s a book of encouragement for times we doubt God answers prayer.
But, it’s also a book about evil, sin and suffering.
The author begins with a Barna Research poll question: “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?”
The most common response, “Why does God allow pain and suffering?”
Why indeed! Alcorn determines the origin of evil in chapter one, which he describes as—”anything that violates God’s moral will.” He explains how evil began with Satan’s rebellion, then the fallen angels, and finally Adam and Eve. In each case, they exalted themselves above God, in rebellion and disobedience, the root of evil.
His definition of evil is the opposite of good, with moral wrongdoing the primary evil. Primary evil is often followed by suffering which tests genuine faith, according to Alcorn.
Yet, modern churches fail to teach a “biblical theology of suffering” which leaves Christians unprepared for “life’s harsh realities.” Another problem that adds to Christians feeling entitled is prosperity teaching. The author writes, “prosperity theology has poisoned the church and undermined our [Christians] ability to deal with evil and suffering.”
He also addresses God’s Sovereignty and describes God as a loving Father who “has purpose in whatever he permits,” with “short-term evil” often accomplishing “long-term good.” He characterizes suffering as a “process” God uses to develop mature believers. He assures readers God doesn’t promote evil, He only permits evil. Or as Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.”
With pointed quotes and personal examples Alcorn encourages readers to learn the importance of perspective, persistence and prayer. Especially in times of discouragement and doubt he recommends the following attitudes and actions:
- • Read Scripture and hold on to God’s promises
- • Know that suffering ends.
- • Anticipate eternity.
- Pray—”Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4: 6—7.
- Reach out to others who suffer, with your time, energy or money.
I’ve reviewed all of Alcorn’s books and without exception, his books encourage, enlighten, and provide a clear pathway to God’s heart for those who suffer and struggle with doubt and unbelief. This one, as all the others, particularly Heaven, is an eleven in a ten out of ten.
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