Answering The Toughest Questions About Suffering And Evil, by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz With Christopher Greer
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
For a long time I have read whatever books I could find about the problem of evil and suffering . Without being too descriptive about the point, I have experienced a fair amount of suffering and evil, observed still more, and unfortunately inflicted my share of evil and suffering on other people. These books have a difficult task, made more difficult by the moral blindness that is so common in our generation. The proliferation of books that seek to justify God and His ways before a critical world often bear evidence to the fact that our expectations are unreasonable. We are fallen and corrupt creatures in a world that has been bent and corrupted by sin for thousands of years and yet we expect good things to happen to us because we fancy ourselves to be good people. This is an unreasonable expectation, and yet it is an expectation we often have, and tend to hold on to despite the efforts of writers to reason us out of our unreason in the matter.
This book is a thoughtful one and it ably discusses the problem of evil. It is a bit unclear why this particular book needed two authors and a ghostwriter who likely did most of the work of research and writing without getting much of the credit, given that it resembles many other excellent books on the subject except that it adds its own touches through many references to other books that show the reaction of people to their own suffering and frequent personal stories. Many of the chapters of this short book–just over 100 pages in the version I read of it–deal with the creation of evil and its relationship to free will as well as our own wicked choices. The authors reflect on the lack of good people on the earth and the relationship between the problem of evil in the world and our lives and the problem of sin and evil within ourselves, a thoughtful discussion. The authors manage to speak against the prosperity gospel, as they ought to, in their goal of encouraging the reader to develop a theology of suffering that recognizes the good that comes from suffering, the way that God is in control and operates in ways different from our own expectations, and reflects upon our own fallen nature and sinful behavior as well as the evil that we see outside of and around us. Throughout the book there are a wide variety of thoughtful questions asked of the reader in their own examination of pain and suffering and evil.
Overall, this is an excellent book. I am not familiar with the authors’ body of work, but as the authors of 75 books, it seems fairly likely that they read a lot and have plenty of ghostwriters and research assistants who help them craft thoughtful examinations of many subjects of interest to others. This is a book I enjoyed and appreciated, but feel a bit unsure about recommending to many readers. Most people do not like to read books about suffering and prefer not to think about the subject unless they have to. As the authors quote J.L. Packer, though: “God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weaknesses deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away (90).” This is a good book in prompting the reader to look seriously at pain and suffering, although many people who read this book will likely be pretty familiar with their own weaknesses and their own suffering.
 See, for example: