God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Jennifer Rothschild
[Note: This book was provided for free by HarperCollins Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]
The author of this book sensibly assumes that someone reading this book has some sort of practical interest in theodicy (the justice and fairness of God), which usually implies some sort of serious sort of questions that one would have for God about one’s life. As someone who often reads and writes about this sort of matter , I am often attuned to what makes books distinctive given the fact that it is very common for people to wrestle with the question of God’s fairness and justice to humanity, given that life is difficult and we all have many struggles and we have the lamentable tendency to compare ourselves with others and to feel discontented about our lot in life and with the difficulties that we have to face, sometimes for a very long time.
This particular book belongs with the family of those books that (wisely) choose a confessional and personal approach to these questions, showing credibility by discussing their own personal struggles and those of others. This book is full of reflective “threads” to help bolster one’s faith during trials, as well as personal stories that include comments on family disagreements, the deaths of friends (including one horrible rape-murder of a young lady), and a variety of physical and psychological ailments, including many references to the author’s struggles with blindness and depression. As someone who has had my own rather open and serious and lengthy struggles, I could definitely identify with the author’s struggles, and the warm and intimate writing of the author would likely make many other readers comfortable as well with a difficult subject given the author’s openness and candor.
Within this context of a warm and friendly and intimate style of writing, the author in 30 fairly short chapters tackles six big questions of faith in God during trials, repeating some matters and some stories for emphasis, and making a firm contrast between different approaches Christian faith and practice including the vital question of attitude. Helpfully, the six big questions all rhyme: God, are you fair? God, do you err? God, do you hear prayer? God, do you care? God, are you aware? God, are you there? These six questions are answered with an approach that combines personal stories, an examination of scripture that is thoughtful and profound, as well as the use of quotes from other theologians (like C.S. Lewis) who wrote thoughtfully about such matters. This approach shows a great deal of sophistication and increases its appeal to a wide audience, managing to straddle the divide between those who are swayed by intellectual appeals and those who need emotionally-based encouragement, as this book manages to combine the virtues of the head and the heart.
Ultimately, this book is like the voice of a warm and encouraging friend comforting those in trial to remain faithful and persistent in trials and to look at struggles in a spirit of gratitude for the growth that we can from them. We may never understand the reasons why we suffer in the ways that we do, or as much as we do, but we have to remember that God has a fair longer time frame than we do, and a far deeper perspective of what to give us and what to withhold from us for His purposes. Although there are some minor quibbles that one could have with this book, the book succeeds wonderfully in its purpose to simultaneously encourage people in questioning God as well as remaining faithful in the face of their questions and their doubts. Such a wonderful balance is a substantial achievement, and therefore any who are struggling with understanding God’s justice would find much to appreciate here. This is a book to be read, shared, and applied with enthusiasm and tenderness.
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