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The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering [Kindle Edition]

Randy Alcorn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Through Pain and Tears…
Finding a Way to God’s Heart

 
For those times when we’re wounded by broken trust, assaulted by disease, or victimized by evil—or when we’re crushed to see such things happen to people we love—Randy Alcorn offers something solid to hold onto.

In this specially focused condensation of Alcorn’s If God Is Good…: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, we’re continually guided into a deeper glimpse of God’s loving ways and higher purposes—the very things we’re often most blinded to whenever we battle pain and anguish.

Alcorn avoids superficial or sentimental responses, and instead presses forward boldly to explore all the troubling doubts and questions that agitate within us when we confront suffering and evil.

The issues are far from simple, the answers far from easy—but Alcorn shows how the way of suffering—a path that Jesus himself followed more than anyone else—can ultimately become a journey into wholeness and even logic-defying joy.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries and a best-selling author. His novels include Deadline, Dominion, Deception, Edge of Eternity, Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, The Ishbane Conspiracy, and the Gold Medallion winner, Safely Home. He has written numerous nonfiction books as well, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Purity Principle, and The Grace and Truth Paradox. Randy and his wife, Nanci, live in Oregon and have two married daughters.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction
 
A Search We All Share
During the two years it took to research and write my large book If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, many people asked me what I was working on. I expected my answer—containing the words evil and suffering—would prompt a quick change of subject. Most, however, expressed keen interest and asked penetrating questions. Several launched into their own stories, as if having received permission to uncork the bottle. What, after all, is more universal to human experience than suffering? And what can be more important than the perspective we bring to it?
 
When It’s Deeply Personal
You may be looking for answers to a philosophical problem or an intellectual struggle. Or you may be looking less for answers than for hope. When a child has fallen off a bicycle, her father doesn’t give a lecture about nerve endings, skin tissue, and the role of blood as it’s pumped by the heart. He reassures the child that he’s there for her, and “everything will be okay.” For you, the answer may simply be “God really does love me.”
 
If something like abuse, desertion, debilitating disease, or the loss of a loved one has devastated you, then suffering isn’t theoretical or philosophical. It’s deeply personal.

In writing his magnificent story of redemption, God has revealed truths about himself, us, the world, goodness, evil, suffering, and Heaven and Hell. Those truths teem with life—the blood of man and of God flows through them. God speaks with passion, not indifference. To come to grips with the problem of evil and suffering, you must do more than hear heart-wrenching stories about suffering people. You must hear God’s truth to help you interpret those stories. Maybe you’re holding on to years of bitterness and depression. You blame someone else for your suffering—and that someone may be God. You will not find relief unless you gain perspective. But perhaps you fear that any attempt to “gain perspective” will deny or minimize your suffering, or that of others. I promise you, the Bible doesn’t minimize suffering or gloss over it, and neither will I.

At times, each of us must snuggle into our Father’s arms, like children, and there receive the comfort we need. God doesn’t just offer us advice, he offers us companionship. He doesn’t promise we won’t face hardship, but he does promise he’ll walk with us through our hardship.
 
THE Question
A Barna Research poll asked, “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The most common response was, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”1 This isn’t merely a problem; it’s the problem. And for the culture at large, it appears to pose a greater difficulty now than ever. Unlike the average person in earlier centuries, we today have a far higher assumption and expectation of comfort, health, and prosperity.
 
When people take time to reflect on life’s meaning in this world, no question looms larger than this one: If God is good…why all this evil and suffering? If God loves us, how can he justify allowing (or sending) the sometimes overwhelming difficulties we face? How we answer this question will radically affect how we perceive God and
the world around us.
 
We may want to turn away from the world’s suffering and ignore the significance of our own pain; we just want it to go away. But despite the superficiality of our culture, we remain God’s image-bearers—thinking and caring people, wired to ask questions and seek answers. You won’t get far in a conversation with someone who rejects the
Christian faith before the problem of evil is raised. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens claim it proves that God doesn’t exist. (Never mind that many who suffer most believe and trust in God, while many who suffer least don’t.) British philosopher Antony Flew, a former champion of atheism, renounced his atheism during the past decade, citing the complexity of the universe and his belief in the overwhelming evidence for intelligent design. Flew did not, however, convert to the Christian faith, but only to deism. Why? He couldn’t get past the problem of evil. He believes God must have created the universe, then abandoned it.
 
My Own Experiences with Suffering
I’m a fellow traveler with you on this road of suffering. In 1970, as a sixteen-year-old new Christian, I watched my friend Greg die from a horrible accident. In 1979, I had to tell my mother that her only brother had been murdered with a meat cleaver. Two years later, Mom died from cancer. About the same time, I was in the throes of an unjust
lawsuit that cost me a job I loved and the ability to earn a normal wage.
 
In 1992 I was alone with my best friend from childhood when he died from cancer, at age thirty-nine. A few years later—alongside my wife, daughters, and brother—I held my dad’s hand as he died, a shriveled version of the vibrant man I’d known. For twenty-five years I’ve battled a disease that daily affects my body and mind, and will probably shorten my life span. But all in all, if I’ve suffered a little more than some people, I’ve suffered a great deal less than others. And while seeking to understand the huge question
of evil and suffering, I’ve realized my need for a deeper and wider perspective.
 
Along the way I’ve asked God to give me wisdom—and discovered that wisdom begins with the humility to say, “There’s a great deal about this I don’t understand.” In fact, if I imagined I had all the answers neatly lined up, what I’ve written wouldn’t be worth reading. While researching this subject, I’ve read nearly a hundred books, listened to countless lectures and debates, and interviewed dozens of people who have faced great evil and suffering. That probably doesn’t sound like fun, yet I found something surprising: the journey was not only rewarding, but also fascinating, enlightening, and at times downright enjoyable. I know it sounds counterintuitive—shouldn’t meditating on evil and suffering be depressing? In fact, I’d already seen enough evil and suffering to feel deeply troubled. What I needed was perspective.
 
In my search for answers, I’ve beheld the God who says, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people.… I have heard them crying out…and I am concerned about their suffering” (Exodus 3:7). I revel in God’s emphatic promise in the Bible that he will make a New Earth where he’ll come down to live with his people, where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes,” and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
 
Often, as I’ve contemplated potentially faith-jarring situations, God has wiped away my own tears as I’ve sought his truth. While my journey hasn’t unearthed easy answers, I’m astonished at how much insight the Bible offers on this most troubling of all subjects. And after much wrestling with the issues, instead of being disheartened, I’m encouraged—especially from seeing so much of God’s goodness, love, holiness, justice, patience, grace, and mercy. This journey has stretched my trust in God and his purposes,
and I’ve emerged better prepared to face suffering and to help others who suffer. I feel I have much more to offer believers in Christ who may be questioning their faith, as well as unbelievers who consider the problem of evil and suffering their single greatest obstacle to faith. With that in mind, I invite you to join me on this journey that I’ve found so interesting, enlightening, and ultimately comforting.
 
When Losing Faith Is GOOD
Evil and suffering have a way of exposing our inadequate theology. When affliction comes, a weak or nominal Christian often discovers that his faith doesn’t account for it or prepare him for it. His faith has been in his church, denomination, or family tradition, or in his own religious ideas—but not in Christ. As he faces evil and suffering, he may, in fact, lose his faith.
 
But that’s actually a good thing; any faith that leaves us unprepared for suffering is a false faith that deserves to be abandoned. Genuine faith will be tested by suffering; false faith will be lost—the sooner, the better.
 
Believing God exists isn’t the same as trusting the God who exists. If you base your faith on lack of affliction, your faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. As John Piper writes, “Wimpy Christians won’t survive the days ahead.”2
 
Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests. Unfortunately, most churches have failed to teach people to think biblically about the realities of evil and suffering. A pastor’s daughter told me, “I was never taught the Christian life was going to be difficult. I’ve discovered it is, and I wasn’t ready.”
 
Our failure to teach a biblical theology of suffering leaves Christians unprepared for harsh realities. It also leaves our children vulnerable to history, philosophy, and global studies classes that raise the problems of evil and suffering while denying the Christian worldview. Since the question will in fact be raised, shouldn’t Christian par...

Product Details

  • File Size: 221 KB
  • Print Length: 130 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1601423438
  • Publisher: Multnomah Books; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003E8AK4G
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,825 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read September 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a condensed version of Alcorn's IF GOD IS GOOD, and the author makes so many excellent points it's hard to write them all down, but I'll try.

Maybe the key to the whole book is found on page 48, where Alcorn writes this:

"..Because Jesus willingly entered this world of evil and suffering and didn't spare himself, but took on the worst of it for my sake and yours, he has earned my trust even for what I can't understand."

That's really the key for any Christ follower struggling with the question of suffering and if there is any "purpose" behind it. God can be trusted, no matter what happens in life. Period. When a Christian gets to that point, they can handle anything that happens to them or their loved ones, even if they don't and can't understand.

Beyond that, I've always loved Alcorn's writing simply because of the bold statements he makes. Listen to some of these:

.."any faith that leaves us unprepared for suffering is a false faith that deserves to be abandoned." (pg.5)

.."God doesn't need us to rescue him from the problem of evil." (pg.31)

.."to hate suffering is easy; to hate sin is not." (pg.99)

.."Worry is momentary atheism, crying out for correction by trust in a good and sovereign God." (pg.110)

This is a must read for all Christ followers, and even anyone who simply wants to explore more about what it means to have a loving God there for you all the time no matter what suffering you may go through in life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a blessing March 6, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Among Christians, it is common to ask "why me Lord" when going through tough times. Many who suffer blame God, or resent Him, or in some cases, cease believing in Him. But what if we were to look deeper, to try to find not only the root cause of much suffering (the fall in the Garden of Eden), but to try to find God's purpose in the suffering we experience. What if we were to instead, view suffering as a blessing, allowing us to rely for heavily on God?

I thought this book was really really lovely. I will warn you now, it definitely challenges you to change your way of thinking. We are very much in the midst of a culture of ME, and this book try to steer our thoughts into a culture of HIM. It is hard to swallow, that mankind is often at the root of their own suffering, whether it is because of the actions of the one suffering, or because of the actions of the original ones, Adam and Eve, and their decision to sin.

At the heart of this book is that God loves you, and wants great things for you, but because we have the power of choice, we must suffer the consequences. And while sins are forgiven, their consequences remain; that is a key point that I think many Christians tend to forget.

While the book is not terribly long, nor are the language and concepts difficult to master, this is a book you want to take your time with. I read it slowly over the course of a couple of weeks, to allow the concepts to really sink in, and to allow me time to process my own reactions to the chapters. I think this would be an excellent book for a small group study, and I know that many will be as blessed by this book as I was.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but not quite able to deliver April 28, 2011
By N. Lamb
Format:Hardcover
One should not take lightly the challenge of writing a book about suffering. Randy Alcorn's book, 'The Goodness of God', is an abridgment of sorts of his much longer work 'If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil'. In this book Alcorn takes up the problem of suffering. Admitting that this subject often serves a barrier to non-Christians, he attempts to argue that a true understanding of the God revealed in the Bible provides assurance that our suffering is not in vain.

First off, let me say that few Christian authors delve so deeply into their research as does Alcorn. While it is hard for me to separate this work from his earlier work 'If God is Good', I can safely say that both books exhibit a breadth of research that is quite impressive. This is not a mere coffee table book cobbled together from C.S. Lewis quotes and a handful of proof texts. Alcorn has done extensive reading on the subject as well as spending much time delving into the scriptures to say what they have to say about this issue. The author is to be commended for his effort to understand all aspects of this important conversation.

Alcorn's approach to suffering comes from personal experience. In fact, he suggests that for those who deal with suffering this is THE experience that most colors their faith. Where does suffering come from? Alcorn argues that all suffering is a consequence of Original Sin. All the pain and suffering in the world owes its beginning to the Garden of Eden. Coming to an understanding of suffering is not, then, asking why God allows suffering. One must first look to him/herself and understand that their sin is at once the cause and consequence of the fallen world. God allowed sin to enter into the world to fit His mysterious purpose.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read May 12, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Randy Alcorn is an amazing author. He is able in this book to tackle a very difficult subject: suffering. It's so easy for us to get caught up in our own sufferings and forget to look beyond to see God's purpose in it all.

God is good. Always. He has a purpose in every thing that He allows to come into our lives. This is a great reminder of that simple truth.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Inspiring book
Published 5 months ago by nancym541
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
happy
Published 6 months ago by Katie Salberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I am glad that I got the book.

Thank you,
Glenn
Published 7 months ago by Glenn H. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Theologically sound, practical and understandable
First, I must confess that I have yet to read one of Randy Alcorn's books that disappointed me. Having read, "If God is Good, Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil," I... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gary Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Why God makes a difference when we don,t see things happen for the...
understanding God,s goodness in times when there is no answer from God but knowing he is working regardless in his way, not the way we think or want to control everything.
Published 7 months ago by Joseph
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great study
Published 7 months ago by My doxies
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favor and read this book. Then ...
Do yourself a favor and read this book. Then, if you're up to it, read the bigger book it's based upon. Alcorn puts suffering into Biblical perspective.
Published 8 months ago by Esther Wangler
5.0 out of 5 stars what we all need!!
instilling what we all need. His goodness and love!! bringing faith to the front of the line!! God is good all the time!
Published 10 months ago by John Eastman
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful follow-up to If God is Good
The Goodness of God, written as a sequel to Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good (a more Christian version of Rabbi Harold S. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Bstrassell0001
5.0 out of 5 stars The Goodness of God
I have been reading many of the books by Randy Alcorn. I use his scholarly research in my preaching ministry. Read more
Published 20 months ago by the most interesting preacher in the world
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More About the Author

Randy Alcorn is an author and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God's Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. His ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity. He accomplishes this by analyzing, teaching, and applying the biblical truth.

Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has an MA degree in Biblical Studies from Multnomah University and an Honorary Doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and has taught on the adjunct faculties of both.

A New York Times bestselling author, Randy has written more than forty books, including Courageous, Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and the Gold Medallion winner Safely Home. His books in print exceed seven million and have been translated into over fifty languages. Randy has written for many magazines including EPM's issues-oriented magazine Eternal Perspectives. He is active daily on Facebook and Twitter, has been a guest on more than 700 radio, television and online programs including Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Revive Our Hearts, The Bible Answer Man, and The Resurgence.

Randy resides in Gresham, Oregon, with his wife, Nanci. They have two married daughters and are the proud grandparents of five grandsons. Randy enjoys hanging out with his family, biking, tennis, research, and reading.

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