Book review of John Blanchard's book "Where is God when things go wrong?"
Many objections to trusting in the Lord are a façade engulfing a pivotal issue, where is God when things go wrong? This short and readable work is book-ended with the story of Joni Eareckson Tada before her diving accident and closes with her life following quadriplegia. It does not belittle her struggles, questions, and continuing challenges, but it does offer a humbling, and inspiring testimony. The question this book responds to is how a loving and all- powerful God permits evil and suffering.
Blanchard works through natural disasters, accidents, evil committed by humans on other humans which accounts for an enormous amount of suffering and then asks some awkward questions to establish a framework for morality. If we adopt an evolutionary worldview of hum
es to morality?” Equally, “how can we condemn anything as ‘evil’, or commend anything as ‘good’ (p19).
Everyone has an innate awareness of what they consider justice constitutes and ironically the existence of evil leads us to the conclusion that God does exist, not the opposite! Blanchard progresses from awkward questions to awkward facts. Though we have sufficient food to feed everyone in the world, millions die every year through selfishness and mismanagement? Is God to blame for that? Some smokers persistently ignore health warnings and some heavy drinkers similarly continue doing what they know is detrimental to their health and exhausts the resources given to preserve their lives? Whose fault is that?
Blanchard observes that God has made us personal beings created to be in right relationship with God, moral beings with a conscience (with knowledge), and rational beings not merely to make sensible decisions, but also to make moral choices. Conversely, we were not designed as robots devoid of relationship, morality, and rationality. The moment that sin entered the world through succumbing to temptation and choosing to disobey God, the consequences were catastrophic.
Adam and Eve became spiritually separated from their Creator. The sin nature corrupted their thoughts, actions and desires, and interpersonal relationships were no longer innocent. They were now subject to physical decay and the ground was simultaneously cursed. In short, the fall of man was when everything went seriously wrong.
God is infinite, we are finite and so is our understanding of His sovereign purposes. People still wish that God would intervene in the way they want Him to more frequently. But let us consider the implications of that.
“If God tweaked the laws of nature billions of times a day merely to ensure every human being’s safety, comfort or success, science would be impossible and, as Francis Bridger points out, ‘We should be reduced to such a state of physical, social and psychological instability that life would fall apart, paradoxically bringing even more suffering in its train. (p32)’
Blanchard then turns to Job as an apt case study. Though he was the most righteous man of his time he suffered horribly having lost family, shunned by friends, losing his servants and livelihood in an instant, in addition to enduring physical sores. The Lord did not provide an explanation for Job’s pain and suffering. He pointed towards His sovereignty and how everything is created by God and Job realised it was utter foolishness to contend with the Almighty or correct Him. Job repented and God restored his family and possessions twofold. It is less important to know the precise answers to provide a watertight apologetic then it is to know and trust in the Lord who does.
God is able to bring good things even amidst the suffering that we have to endure. Suffering causes us to draw near to God and to rely on Him and not on ourselves. Though many life experiences are painful, as we become more reliant on God, we gain greater confidence in Him, and in the Bible and our faith is strengthened. Our faith shifts from the temporal to the eternal. Onlookers that see a believer in the Lord suffering and still humbly praising the Lord as Job said “Blessed be the name of the Lord”, witness a genuine testimony of the righteous and they realise that person has something that they don’t have.
Our Saviour condescended into our world and was hated without a cause, endured an anguishing crucifixion and worst of all was separated from His Father whom He had known from eternity past and with whom He had enjoyed uninterrupted perfect fellowship from before time was. Being fully God and fully Man, He is completely able to sympathise and help us in our time of need and intercede to our heavenly Father on our behalf as our High Priest. His death has brought us life and whoever believes in Him will have life eternal.
There is a sure and certain hope because our Lord died and rose the third day and has gone ahead to prepare a place for those who trust and follow Him. This life is like a vapour or a passing shadow compared with the light of eternity which will never end. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).”