Review: Where Is God?

There is almost no limit to the struggles that we experience in life. People are being affected in moderate and major ways. They often feel overwhelmed and can’t think past the next day. ‘Normal’ answers don’t work. ….They are looking to God for hope and help.”

Those are some words from Dr. John Townsend’s book, Where Is God? John Townsend is a psychologist, author, speaker and leadership coach. He has authored or coauthored twenty books, selling more than five million copies (including the classic Boundaries). He has a nationally syndicated radio program (New Life Live!) and two television programs. This book is Townsend’s theodicy – an attempt to understand how a good God can allow evil things to happen, and how we can face pain with faith. He begins his book with three organizing principles:

  • God is for you
  • Your experience matters
  • The Bible is our source for understanding God’s ways in hard times.
Those three presuppositions of the book mean that this is not a defense of the faith. It is not an attempt to convince the unbelieving sufferer that God is real. It is written for the believer who faces such significant struggle that the most natural question is ‘Where is God?’.
In presenting some well organized thoughts about suffering, he begins with the basic Christian truth that we live in a broken world. There are sins we commit and sins others commit against us. That is an excellent start to the conversation, but our eyes always turn to God. He is supposed to have the ability to stop evil in its tracks. But He doesn’t.

Townsend doesn’t back away from the question, nor does he pretend to know every answer. He presents the case that God created us to love Him and each other. Free will, however, allows for some to choose not to love. We live in a world with pain because God wants us to love Him from the heart, rather than by compulsion. Getting to know God, then, is an essential task.

Our concepts of God help us deal with pain, or make it more complicated. Do we believe that God is angry with us? Is he unpleasable? Is he detached and uninvolved in our lives? Does He regard our selfishness and sin as  something to wink at, no big deal? In hopes of reaching a more realistic (and true) understanding of God, Townsend offers some specific steps.

Other chapters express the value of hope, the compassion of God, and the work of God behind the scenes where we often do not detect Him. Further he discusses how suffering can be used by God to transform us and drive us to connect with others so that we can both be ministered to and minister.
In one of my favorite chapters of the book, entitled The God of Faith When There Are No Answers, Townsend writes:

‘Faith is trusting God for your problems and for your life. Faith is trusting that He wants what is best for you. You will be most successful in a tough life when you come to a point in which you place your trust in God’s unseen care rather than in what you see around you. Faith is the only way to keep difficult times from causing you to despair or give up.’  p. 130

Having suffered the loss of a child, I am always interested in hearing perspectives on suffering and loss. I realize that there is no ONE answer, nothing that can be written or said that soothes the broken heart. However, I also realize that I live in a world with many hurting and broken people. And we all need to know that God hasn’t disappeared or removed Himself from our lives because something tragic happened.

I would recommend Where Is God? to anyone who is suffering a loss, depression, discouragement, or any faith-shaking event. I believe that he has done a great service by gathering together some perspectives that offer help, and also some practical items that will give us some direction through the darkness of our days. I also appreciate Townsend’s relaxed style of writing. I never felt like I was reading a text book, but always felt like I was having a conversation with a friend. Only this friend knew the kinds of questions I was asking. I appreciated that.

WHERE IS GOD?: Finding His Presence, Purpose, and Power in Difficult Times is a book by Dr. John Townsend, published by Thomas Nelson in 2009.

Have you read the book? Love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading,

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