Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense
“It is safe to say that both skeptic and believer alike share one opinion in common: The question of pain and suffering provides the greatest challenge to belief in God.” In WHY SUFFERING?, Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale provide the 10 primary reasons why a loving God might allow suffering --- why the existence of suffering does not negate the existence of God.
To begin with, WHY SUFFERING? is not a typical question that can be treated lightly or with a clichéd suggestion to “take two scriptures and call me in the morning.” Pain and suffering are part of life, and they require more than explanations that rely solely on faith. The intellectual part of our beings demand more, and when one is skeptical about the very existence of God, the demand is even stronger.
"Anyone familiar with Zacharias and Vitale will know that this little book is not a light buffet of delicacies or feel-good platitudes. Instead, it is a table loaded down with meat and vegetables that will require much chewing and lots of reflection."
Anyone familiar with Zacharias and Vitale will know that this little book is not a light buffet of delicacies or feel-good platitudes. Instead, it is a table loaded down with meat and vegetables that will require much chewing and lots of reflection. It is a challenge to every Christian who has ever tried to explain to a skeptic that pain and suffering in a world created by a loving God are not mutually exclusive. In WALKING IN THE DUST OF RABBI JESUS, Lois Tverberg calls it “thinking with both hands.” Just as the notion that God is in control yet man has free will, so a loving God can allow pain and suffering. This kind of thinking and reasoning provides food for the soul and nourishment for believers who want to know more about the mysteries of God.
Between them, Zacharias and Vitale present alternate responses to WHY SUFFERING? Chapters include a Response from Freedom, a Response from Grace, a Response of Hope and a Response from Morality. There is also an excellent chapter on comparisons among the leading world religions in respect to how each answers the question. Each section contains examples from life situations as well as Biblical evidence to support the particular response.
One of the most memorable illustrations used to explain the co-existence of a loving God with the presence of pain and suffering is the one about parenting. It challenges us to think about how we, as parents, would regard bringing a child into a world that was almost guaranteed to cause some suffering. The majority of people, obviously, consider this possibility but believe that they will be able to provide whatever is necessary to help the child through it. The alternative would be for that child never to be born --- just as the alternative in regard to God would be for us not to be born. That was definitely a WOW moment for me.
In the concluding chapter, Vitale makes two excellent points that will challenge believers and non-believers alike to delve more deeply into this philosophical conundrum. First, “It should give us serious pause if we assume that God can only have good reasons for something if we know what those reasons are. What does that assumption assume about who we are? The Bible puts the question this way: 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?'” In other words, just because we don't know “why” doesn't mean that there is not a reason.
Second, he writes, “Could God have wronged you by creating a world in which you came to exist and are offered eternal life, rather than creating a world in which you never would have lived? If creating people in a world in which they will suffer is in principle immoral, then is it wrong for human parents to have a baby?”
As I said, this is not a light repast but one that will provide rich food for thought and discussion. Despite the depth of the topic and the intellect of the authors, their logical arguments and reasonable conclusions can be understood and appreciated by any serious seeker.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on October 16, 2014