Monday, October 20, 2008

When Answers Aren't Enough

Okay, I said I would write a review of this book. What I didn't expect was how much it touched me emotionally.

Much of that may be due to the fact that Matt Rogers takes us through his personal journey of trying to "experience God as good when life isn't." Because we explore the questions and issues we can't get our mind around as Rogers is, we feel more like we're taking a journey with a friend.

Matt Rogers was a pastor at his church at Virginia Tech during the shootings. Much of his questions started with that experience but branched out into the suffering none of us escape during this life. He admits that we can come up with answers from our theology, all going back to living in a fallen world and the freedom to choose evil. Yet he doesn't stop there. He goes where most of us have been. "When we can answer our own questions but our hearts still ache, then what?"

He makes two points that hit home with me. One is that we live in a world that is at the same time beautiful and awful. Part of the journey is discovering how to live "fully aware of the darkness yet not overcome by it."

Two, often we hold God to a promise He never made. We expect Him to give us a good, easy, pain-free, safe life. Yet He never promises that. A quick look at many biblical characters shows us how difficult following God can be. Jesus Himself said in this world we would have trouble. At the same time Rogers says, "We cannot experience as good any God who says okay to tragedy without a stabbing pain in his own heart. . . . We must define God carefully, allowing for a heavy dose of mystery, which is an inevitable and essential part of relating to the Infinite."

I love an author who embraces the mystery of God instead of trying to define Him precisely. Mostly, I love how he rejects the neatly tied up package. "But I know simple answers will not--cannot--get me there."

There are a lot more wonderful lines I underlined in this book. But this is a blog post, not a term paper and time and attention is limited. So I suggest (strongly) you go out and get yourself a copy.

When Answers Aren't Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn't. Matt Rogers, Zondervan.


heather said...

Thanks for the review.
I think as Americans, being safe is our biggest value. Being safe isn't bad. Except when it gets in the way of living the risky Christian life to which Christ called us.
It means being unsafe, giving up comforts, and following him (otherwise known as taking up our cross).

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, Heather. We value safety so much that we refuse to see the adventure that Jesus has called us to. Sure it's scary; He hasn't promised us safety. But He has promised to be with us. And that's better than safety any day.

Jeanne Damoff said...

I'm so encouraged by this, Jen, because the themes he addresses are identical to the ones I consider in Parting the Waters. Rather than feeling like I've got "competition" I'm happy to know that more people are affirming God's goodness in the midst of deep pain. So many Christians have been told that, if they only have enough faith and do what pleases God, He will make their lives easy and comfortable. The Bible in no way supports that premise, and yet many believers are living under false guilt on top of their suffering.

God is on His throne, wisely and lovingly involved in every aspect of our lives. When He chooses suffering for us, it is a gift that our faith might grow and that He might be glorified. I don't think we can begin to imagine what God accomplishes when we trust Him in our brokenness.

Love, Jeanne

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Jeanne, I thought of your family's story many times as I read the book. Also, I've been reading A Purple State of Mind, which takes some of the similar ideas from a different perspective.

I think there's a real hunger out there for books like these and like Parting the Waters. I agree; I don't think they're competition. I see them as complementary.