The Good Samaritan may be the most famous of all the parables that Jesus told. It certainly ranks in the top two or three. Sometimes familiarity like that breeds indifference. We have heard something so much that we think we have gotten all we can out of it. Yet, no matter how familiar I am with what the Bible teaches, I constantly find myself being surprised, challenged, and inspired by new insights. That certainly happened to me as a prepared to preach this message at Oviedo City Church recently. I hope you find something new as well and that it strengthens your relationship with Jesus.
If you have taken a breath in life you have at some point wondered why bad things happen. Maybe it was “Why did that earthquake, fire, car crash, or disease, happen to those people?” Chances are it was far more personal, Why did that happen to me? It’s possible, even likely, that you cried out to God, or some version of God in your head, wondering why you, and why didn’t God do something about it.
The question of why there is suffering is all the more perplexing when we believe in a powerful and loving God who seemingly didn’t do anything to protect us from it. Countless people have attempted answers to that question. Countless sermons have been preached, blogs written, and books published in attempts to answer the Why? question. Generally, I find that they fall into a couple of categories. Many of them are far too academic and sterile making one wonder if the author has actually ever experienced suffering or knows anyone who has. On the other hand, many of them offer insipid platitudes that quickly brush past the reality of the suffering and give the equivalent of a piece of straw to a drowning man or woman. It is rare to find someone who both understands and recognizes the pain of suffering and provides real answers that have intellectual depth and promise, while at the same time acknowledging that we don’t and won’t have all the answers.
Sharon Dirckx (pronounced Dear-Icks) has provided just such a work and it is the finest work on the subject of suffering I have come across in many years, maybe ever. It combines stories of real people, the suffering they have endured as well as the answers they have found, with the intellectual rigor of someone who spent years doing research as a neurobiologist. More than that, Dircxk shares her own family’s struggles with her husband’s chronic, sometimes debilitating illness. It makes for a very real, sometimes emotionally raw book, that has answers that actually make a difference.
The stories in this book had my eyes welling up with emotion at the same time they had my heart swelling up with inspiration. They made the question of suffering very real, thus avoiding the cold, clinical approach of some theologians. The theological rigor, biblical comprehension, and logical thinking that come on the heels of each of the stories had my mind racing with excitement as I found answers that lay a solid foundation on which to stand. The end result is confidence that God deeply cares about people and their circumstances and that suffering is not the end of the story.
This is a book I did not want to put down and only did so when I had to change planes and eventually arrived at my destination. On one level it reads quickly. On another, you will want to ponder and absorb the arguments she makes in answering the Why? question. In that way it is a wonderfully helpful book if you are in the midst of suffering, have come through it and wondering why, or just want to be prepared and understand God more fully. It is also a book that people of faith, as well as skeptics, will find engaging and helpful.
It is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions.
- In full disclosure, I have met Sharon Dirckx and attended a number of her lectures as well as had conversations on a number of topics. All that has only served to add to my respect for her writing and for her as a person and follower of Jesus.