03/05/2006

When God Weeps (by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes)

This is a book written by two authors, and I found the difference in style quite striking. The main part is written by Joni Eareckson-Tada, who was paralysed in an accident in her late teens and now lives as quadriplegic. She overcame major depression and learned to live an active and cheerful life in her wheelchair despite being dependent on others. She has written other books and does a lot of speaking as a Christian too.

The main focus of this book is on suffering, and the age-old questions: why does God allow it? Is he in fact not all-powerful, or not all-loving? What possible benefit can there be to suffering?

Because Joni has suffered in a way that most of us are unlikely ever to experience, she speaks with the voice of experience that is sometimes moving, always relevant. She tackles really difficult questions, sometimes giving examples of suffering even worse than her own, times when it's impossible to see any possible value in somebody's pain. She manages to stay positive and encouraging without ever being trite or triumphalistic. Very thought-provoking, too.

The first six chapters, and one towards the end, are written by Steve Estes, a pastor and academic who has worked on books with Joni before. Unfortunately I didn't find his writing nearly so helpful. I think it was supposed to be a theological and Scriptural basis for what Joni was writing about, but it came over in some places as preaching from a particular doctrinal viewpoint. His writing also felt rather harsher than Joni's, and as if he were writing purely from a theoretical standpoint.

If I read this again some time, I will miss out these more academic sections, as I think the book would have been much better without them. But no doubt others would disagree - and there, perhaps, is part of the value of this book. It approaches the topic from different perspectives, so there's probably something in it for everyone.

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