Here is a book of profound relevance as we battle a global pandemic. Amy Orr-Ewing, Senior Vice President with RZIM and Joint Director of OCCA (Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics), helps us think through some of the toughest questions challenging the Christian faith, especially in the midst of pain and suffering. She shows us that questions on pain and suffering don’t have to be suppressed or avoided, but rather “can be companions on a journey towards a relationship with God, and a genuine exploration of faith.” What I most appreciated about the book is the way she integrates her compelling arguments with personal stories!
Amy herself hasn’t been immune to pain and suffering. She shows us how the Christian faith uniquely begins with love as a starting point, unlike other competing worldviews. She suggests that suffering hurts us as human beings in profound ways because we really do matter. Since we are made in God’s image, our lives are undeniably sacred. She further writes, “The Bible locates an explanation for pain, evil and suffering in the context of people having the ability to love and so the ability to make choices.” And because of this freedom to make choices, we also have the possibility of evil, which is what happened at the Fall of man.
Amy then looks at how our heartfelt cries for justice echo the heart of the Christian story. Our outrage at evil points to the fact that things are not as it should be. She rightly points out that “grief and love seem to be inextricably connected.” We feel grief at losing a person (even the ones we don’t personally know) because that person is intrinsically valuable. Even in sickness, the Bible assures us that God is not distant from us or indifferent to our suffering; instead He is near us. She again rightly shows us that physical pain is the consequence of living in a fallen world. She points out that while it is true that God does heal some and not others, it is not true to infer from this that He is not loving or that He doesn’t exist. She helpfully shows us the present and future dimensions of the kingdom of God, which the Bible clearly points us to.
Amy also looks at mental illness, violence, natural disasters and systemic suffering to show us that God is present with us in our deepest sorrows. Importantly, God often uses His people to help alleviate the pain and suffering of others. She writes, “The sacredness of life rooted in the image of God underpins our response to disaster. We have good reason to feel outrage and sorrow, but also a real mandate to respond with compassion, generosity and self sacrifice.” She also shows us from Scripture that perpetrators of evil will ultimately face the divine Judge and receive their just reward. She consistently shows us that God too suffered in the person of Christ and she elaborates that thought in her final chapter on the Suffering Servant.
There is a lot to commend in this short book. This is a book which makes a clear case for the Christian worldview. Amy beautifully shows us that competing worldviews don’t offer the kind of robust answers that the Christian worldview provides in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Amy is indeed a sharp thinker and she deals with some of the worst forms of suffering to provide compelling answers for the skeptic and believer alike. This book is a good addition to the plethora of books on suffering and I am happy to commend it to all. 4/5 stars.
*I received this complementary book from The Good Book Company, but was not required to write a positive review.*