I’ve been a fan of Randy Alcorn’s writing since I read Heaven and Safely Home several years ago, and this one also ranks among my favorites. Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil is the subtitle, which could also be God’s Goodness and Sovereignty in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. Alcorn delves into this challenging topic in his usual excellent manner of dissecting Scripture in great detail to discover the Truth. The amount of research required to write such a comprehensive book is astounding, and it is clear that Alcorn has left few stones unturned for the finished product, which honestly examines suffering from every possible angle. He sensitively shares the personal stories and perspectives of both believers and unbelievers who have greatly suffered and struggled with faith. The almost 500 pages are filled with a variety of poignant examples and quotes from other scholars that bring the material to life and illustrate the most important point of all: “suffering is, in the end, God’s invitation to trust him” (back cover).
The book is well organized with 11 topical sections divided into 45 short chapters, which are further subdivided into small titled sections (click to view). I would recommend slowly reading through this book over a period of time to dwell on and absorb the contents. I wondered if Alcorn could have covered all of the subject matter in a more condensed format, but then I realized that the enormity and complexity of this subject cannot be shortchanged by providing summaries and hastily drawn conclusions. While some of the theological points tend to repeat throughout the book, each chapter builds on the previous one for a fuller understanding of how humanity’s experiences fit into the bigger picture of God’s plan for the world and His people.
Like most, I’ve wrestled with the themes of this book when overwhelmed by the fallen nature of this world as easily observed in the daily news or in my own life. I am especially encouraged by the author’s constant emphasis on God’s word, character, and glory, as well as the higher purposes for suffering that are not quickly visible. Alcorn writes with humility, logic, and compassion, never offering trite answers for others’ afflictions, but inviting Jesus to reveal Himself to us as we live between the Garden of Eden and Eternity.