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When Answers Aren't Enough: Experiencing God As Good When Life Isn't
Zondervan / 2008 / Paperback
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On April 16, 2007, 33 Virginia Tech students were killed in the worst massacre in modern U.S. history. As campus pastor, Rogers found himself asking and being asked, "Where is God?" Going beyond pat answers and intellectual responses, he explores the depths of our longing for a Savior we can trust when nothing else is certain. 224 pages, softcover from Zondervan.
On April 16, 2007, the campus of Virginia Tech experienced a collective nightmare when thirty-three students were killed in the worst massacre in modern U.S. history. Following that horrendous event, VA Tech campus pastor Matt Rogers found himself asking and being asked, Where is God in all of this? The cliché-ridden, pat answers rang hollow. In this beautifully written reflection, Rogers illumines the path for experiencing God as truly good when life isnt.
Rogers, a pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech, reflects on the tragedy that shook the campus (and the nation) in April 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 fellow students and professors. However, this isn't primarily a message of pastoral comfort, or even a journalistic account about how students of faith have walked through their grief. (Rogers is more than 50 pages into the book before he mentions that one of the students who died attended his church.) Instead, it centers around Rogers's own heartache and struggle to understand how God can give so many good gifts and yet allow such horror. While there are poetic moments, and readers will be comforted by his thoughts on the way the world was meant to be and the world that is to come, there's little new, and all the brooding introspection can become wearying. With a release timed around the anniversary of the shootings, there promises to be a lot of interest and plenty of media opportunities. Unfortunately, the book could have been much better if Rogers had gotten out of his own pain and focused on the students he works with. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Read all Questions/Answers for "When Answers Aren't Enough: Experiencing God As Good When Life Isn't"
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Author: Matt Rogers
Located in: United States
Submitted: March 25, 2008
Tell us a little about yourself. I am one of the pastors of New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Eight hundred students call it home. In addition to our campus ministry, we have a community congregation in Blacksburg, Virginia, that we recently launched. As for me? I never know how to describe myself because we change daily through our experiences. I guess I would say I'm pretty serious, a deep thinker, though with a dry wit. I like to laugh, and I like people who make me laugh. In fact, one of the best things in life is laughing so hard you cry.
What was your motivation behind this project? Too many books on suffering and grief focus almost exclusively on providing answers to troubling questions: How can God be good when the world so often isn't? Answers help, but rarely do they heal. I experienced this first hand after the tragedy at Virginia Tech in which thirty-two students were killed by a fellow student. When pain interrupts life in a big way, we need more than intellectual solutions. So the question is not so much, "How can God be good when the world isn't?" but rather, "How can I EXPERIENCE God as good when life isn't?" The psalmist says to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8 TNIV). In other words, move beyond the intellectual. Use your senses. Experience your faith. This is our real need in suffering: not merely intellectual solutions, but God himself. I wanted to write a book that, through my own story after the Virginia Tech massacre, gave others a path to experiencing God as good when life isn't.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? The way to peace in the absence or insufficiency of answers. Sometimes we don't know why terrible things happen. Even when we do know, the knowing often doesn't help much. Again, we were created for God, not answers. If this book helps people experience God as deeply good in the midst of their grief, I will be very happy indeed.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? I never left April 16, 2007, behind. I thought about it every day as I wrote the book. At times, this was exhausting and wearying. Ultimately, though, I believe it was therapeutic. Rather than running from the sadness, I embraced it, worked through it slowly but thoroughly. As a result, I feel a wholeness I doubt would have been possible otherwise. When Moses went up on the mountain to hear from God, the Bible says he "approached the thick darkness where God was" (Exodus 20:21 TNIV). I love that image. God was in the darkness. Moses had to enter into it to experience God. That has been my story this past year.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? Madeleine L'Engle (to whom my book is dedicated) taught me to experience what I once only believed. She, through her writing, helped me see something better than intellect alone, and I am grateful for her influence in my life. Philip Yancey: I can't say enough how his honesty and transparency have given me freedom to face my own doubts and questions. Pick up a copy of "Where is God When it Hurts?" or "Disappointment with God." Both are excellent books. If I could choose to write like another author, I would choose to emulate Annie Dillard. You simply must experience the beauty of her prose (that borders on poetry) in "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek." And what Christian writer hasn't felt the influence of C.S. Lewis? You can hear echoes of his "A Grief Observed" in my "When Answers Aren't Enough."
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: When I write, I aim first at raw honesty. I want readers to know that pastors face the same questions, doubts, and fears as the rest of the world. At least this pastor does. Hopefully, readers will find solace in that knowledge.
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