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).
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God does not directly cause evil, John Mark says, which comes rather from “Satanic freedom, natural chaos, and human freedom.” God does allow all that occurs, for he is truly sovereign over all of creation. God’s actions always coincide with his loving nature and redemptive purpose, although we often cannot find either love or redemption in our own suffering or in that of others.
To see the true picture of God and his work in our personal stories, John Mark says, we must enlarge our vision to encompass God’s larger story, revealed through the biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. John Mark faithfully leads the reader through God’s story throughout most of the book — beginning with Creation and the Fall, focusing on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and ending with God’s final victory in Resurrection and the New Heavens and Earth. In that light, the author says, we also can begin to see light in the midst of our own darkness.
A comprehensive biblical perspective also provides us with “five theological anchors,” John Mark concludes — all related to God’s inherent character and to his purpose in the world. In our suffering we may be “reminded,” says this author, of God’s “unrelenting love,” his “inviting presence,” his “caring empathy,” his unlimited sovereignty,” and his “ultimate victory.” To put it another way, “God loves. God listens. God understands. God rules. God wins.” These affirmations summarize “the substance of God’s story among his people, and God’s story gives faith its confidence.”
This is not always an easy or comfortable book to read — but it is honest, thorough, practical, God-centered and exceedingly biblical. Those who suffer, and those who would comfort sufferers, will alike benefit richly from it. For those who do not presently suffer, John Mark’s book provides valuable theological perspective for any circumstance the future might unfold.