Saturday, October 6, 2007

Book Review: "If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad?"

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

This book was written by David Biebel and was originally published in 1989. It is written for people who are still hurting from loss which, as Biebel points out, includes just about everyone. Often, when people suffer, they have some difficulty reconciling their own hurt with their understanding of God (hence the title). Biebel offers some insight into his own struggles, and he explains that through his pain, his faith is stronger and he has grown closer to God.

Biebel makes a good case for "embracing" pain. Up until recently (say around 1900), pain was a normal part of our existence. Now, we as a society do everything we can to hide and suppress pain. We don't talk about our pain, because it is a sign of weakness. We have medicine and modern comforts to suppress our pain. There are several problems with this:
  • Jesus is a "man of sorrow and acquainted with grief". He suffered. How can we understand the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus without experiencing pain ourselves? How can we relate to Him?
  • Pain lets us learn our limits and learn to trust God. How can we learn to cling to, rely on, and trust in Jesus if we never suffer, if we are never pushed to the limits of what we can bear?
  • When we build our lives around something or someone other than Jesus, then how will God "break down" those walls without some suffering? He "disciplines every son that he loves".
Thus, experiencing pain and loving God can go together. We often treat these as contradictory. That is, when we suffer loss, it is easy to blame God. And when things are going well, we tend to thank God. Biebel makes a good case that we can and should continue to love and trust God even while experiencing pain. The pain will hurt, and we can know that God will work it together for good if we continue to trust Him.

These are all excellent insights.

There are a few minor things that I do not like about the book. First, it is written in a "lofty" language that is somewhat difficult to understand. For example, there are several latin phrases that I didn't bother to look up in the dictionary. Second, Biebel tends to treat Jesus as a peer rather than as God. Maybe he is right, but for some reason that does not set well with me. Third, the book is a little preachy.

On the whole, the good insights that Biebel offers far outweigh any of these. I appreciate how honest and open he is about his own struggles, and I am thankful that he took the time to share his insights with us. This book will help me accept the pain that I have experienced by reshaping my understanding of God. It will bring me closer to God which I believe is his goal.


Adaline said...

This book sounds really good on ALL levels. My husband and I were discussing this very topic. We have faced some struggles with our son's development and it hasn't been easy at times. My husband was fed up one night and said he was loosing faith in God and I told him that 'faith' is not having all the answers to the negative things that happen in life and that these things are what bring us closer to God. Also it is a miracle we even had children and that in itself is a blessing. I am going to look for this book it sounds like a good one to apply to your life in many situations.
I agree about society today avoiding/hiding pain at all costs. I've found myself doing that before. Pain is a process and we need to 'allow' ourselves to live through and experiance it in order to move on and become stronger as people and our spirituality.

fredandsharon said...

I am wondering how Rusty is doing today? How does one heal from such sadness and pain? That is a lot to carry in your mine and heart.