At some point in life, we all encounter and experience suffering — physical pain, emotional loss, the death of someone we love. During such times we inevitably ask, “Where is God? Does he cause this? Does he allow it? Why does he do either, if he loves me and could prevent this?” My friend and gracEmail subscriber John Mark Hicks has passed through these fires more than once, and has shared his story and some comforting truths about the subject in a profound book titled Yet Will I Trust Him: Understanding God in a Suffering World (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Publishing Co., paper, 338 pp. 1999; order in USA from toll-free 800-289-3300). In this gracEmail and the next one, we will take a look at what John Mark has shared there.
* * *
The year 1977 saw John Mark Hicks fresh out of college and happy with his new bride Sheila. Life had always been good for John Mark, 19, and he thought as a believer that it always would be. His faith was simple, his theological answers were certain and his expectations were sure. He and Sheila planned to do mission work somewhere in Eastern Europe, where John Mark would earn a Ph.D. in theology and return victoriously to the States to teach in a Christian university. Instead, three years later, Sheila suddenly died from an unexpected blood clot and John Mark’s life crashed to the ground — along with his hopes, his innocence and his rose-colored faith.
Three years later, God gave John Mark a new wife in Barbara, then gave them three wonderful children. But life crashed again in 1991 when son Joshua Mark, about five years old, was diagnosed with a terminal genetic disorder which progressively debilitates the body and destroys the brain. John Mark began asking the questions again which plague every suffering believer. Where is God? Does he care? Can he help? If he cares and can help, why does he not do so?
Seeking answers, John Mark turned to the Bible, especially to Job and Psalms, where he discovered “the world of faithful lament” — the cry of one in pain who shouts at God, questions God, even accuses God, but who finally trusts in God nevertheless. John Mark also rediscovered the larger biblical story as well. Along the way, he earned master’s and doctor’s degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary. Since 1991, he has taught Christian doctrine at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn. and at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. In 1999, John Mark shared the understanding he gained through his own travail in his book titled Yet Will I Trust Him. In the next gracEmail we will see some of those insights.