Randy Alcorn, The Goodness of God, gift size edition.
Randy Alcorn's book, The Goodness of God, is subtitled, Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering. The version I have, which is a review copy sent to me by Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, is abridged from a longer book dealing with the same subject.
The issue of suffering is a deep one. Alcorn points the reader to a deeper knowledge of and trust in the Lord, which -- in the end -- is what we cling to when going through trials. He says,
"In our times of suffering, God doesn't give answers as much as he gives himself. And already, in the bible, h has revealed more than enough of himself to give us solid reasons for faith -- yet not enough to make our faith unnecessary."
He also writes, "Because Jesus willingly entered this world of evil and suffering and didn't spare himself, but took on the worst of it for my sake and yours, he has earned my trust even for what I can't understand."
Alcorn doesn't ask the reader to accept suffering on blind faith, but offers perspectives about evil and suffering that help build trust in God's sovereignty and goodness. It certainly gave me some good food for thought. I read it quickly once and intend to read it again so that I can ponder some of his points more deeply.
This is the kind of book to read and study in those moments when things are going well in order to have a good foundation for any trials that might come later. I'm not sure whether or not I would give this book to someone who was in the throes of an acute tragedy. What helps people in the first moments of suffering or trial varies, and I would consider whether a particular person would find this book to be of comfort in such a time or not before giving it to him or her. However, I would more likely give it as a gift to someone who struggles with the issue of suffering in general or to someone who is facing a chronic trial or who is already past the first shock of suffering.
The book is written mostly for those who already have some kind of faith in the Lord. It does include a section at the end aimed to the person who has never come into a relationship with Christ. Here's my only criticism of the book: This little section is the standard presentation that occurs in many religious books. It assumes that the person can become a Christian simply by reading this book and "praying Jesus into their heart". My conviction is that this does readers a terrible disservice by 1) taking certain scriptures out of their context as written to Christians and using them -- wrongly -- as a basis for initial conversion, 2) failing to present the full truth and beauty of the gospel the way the apostles showed us throughout the book of Acts and 3) leaving out the personal relationships needed to help a person become a disciple of Jesus, to connect with Jesus' sacrifice for us and his grace, and to be nurtured in the faith. (See Matthew 28:18-20).