When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering, and Evil  -     By: John S. Feinberg
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When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering, and Evil

Kregel Publications / 2016 / Paperback

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Sorrow requires us to confront questions of God's justice, the reality of grace, God's presence in our lives, and his very nature. Feinberg, a former pastor, does just that. He also offers a particular gift to the grieving and to those who would comfort them: he reveals the biblical reasons against the use of traditional platitudes, especially by those in the ministry, and sets out alternatives that truly encourage. John's wife, Patricia, weighs in with an afterword about her diagnosis and the hope she found in a dark time in their lives.

When There Are No Easy Answers considers the problem of suffering from every angle, just as the Feinbergs have walked through it in their journey. The path they've forged through grief can offer a way forward for others who suffer and those who would minister to them.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Kregel Publications
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 0825444128
ISBN-13: 9780825444128

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Product Reviews

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  1. Colorado Springs, CO
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    When you're struggling with...
    July 29, 2016
    Don Haflich
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    To be sure, pain and suffering is something that touches all our lives in multi-faceted ways. As we live out our existence in a broken and fallen humanity we live between two realities, the already, and not yet. Because of the substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross, his raising from the dead and overcoming death, and his being seated at the right hand assures us that we have already been redeemed. However, on the other hand, we still feel the sting of death and feel the weight of a world groaning towards the consummation of all things in Christ.

    If anyone feels the weight of groaning and a struggle to see things put right again, its John S. Feinberg. Included in his newest volume, When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering, and Evil, he comes face to face with questions that have no easy answer. In 1987 he and his wife were faced with the diagnosis of an incurable, genetically transmitted disease. He questions, with children in their 30s, whether or not this diagnosis is going to be passed down through generations. He questions the spread of the disease in his family, but what he does not do int he midst of tragedy, is question the goodness of God.

    In our hurting world I have found that people want an experience of God that overshadows the lives they are leading. They want God to be something other than the mundane, boring, hateful, Christians theyve known. We have the Holy Spirit of the Living God as a testimony to the truth of the Gospel. We have the very word of God breathed out for us and written down by faithful men. We have the hope of the world and we can relate to them because we have a savior who is acquainted with suffering.

    Sure there are times he mentions not being able to understand the providence or God or if his wife even remembers that he helped her through her day. He wonders if his children will soon start displaying the symptoms of Huntingtons disease. In this volume we have the life work of thinking on these issues and a slightly variegated take on the issues of the goodness of God, suffering, and evil.

    Feinberg comes to a very simple conclusion: The God who is in charge today and who gives comfort, strength, and grace to hand todays challenges will be there tomorrow to do exactly the same for those who ask him. An answer like this comes through immense struggle and a deep reliance on the good, wise, and all-knowing counsel of the creator of the universe. It comes from a realization that we are, as B.B. Warfield would say, in ourselves just miserable sinners still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath.

    This book is less about theologically figuring out the ways of God. Its more about questioning God and examining what he says in his word concerning his good plans. Its a story of determination to grasp God in the midst of confusion and darkness. Its a story of hope even in the messiness of life. Learning to walk with God through suffering is not easy, but its possible. He is a God who gives grace upon grace in our times of need. He is faithful even when we are faithless. This story exemplifies this to the utmost.
  2. PRYOR
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    July 27, 2016
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    When something tragic happens in our life, that alters it forever, there is the tendency to ask Why? Sadly there is never an answer to this question, and if there were, none could bring relief and comfort.

    Mr. Feinberg openly, transparently, and honestly walks the reader through grappling with the whys of personal tragedy. He shares his step by step is journey of pain from the diagnosis of his wifes Huntington disease to acceptance, as one who has been there. I could relate to much of what he shared in relation to the death of my husband. He helps the reader understand that that God is a loving and caring even though He does not prevent bad things from happening to His children. The author shares his rawest emotions and thoughts as he wrestled with the unchangeable circumstances his family faced. He delves deep into scriptures to not to answer that age old question, but to find the help and strength that is needed to go on.

    The book also does a wonderful job of instruction friends and family in how to be a support to one facing such challenges. This includes things NOT to do and some of these might surprise you as they are fairly common offerings when people try to minister to those that are hurting. Though it might sound like a depressing subject, this book is one of hope and healing.
  3. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Voice for those who Suffer
    July 27, 2016
    Melinda Viergever Inman
    Quality: 4
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This book is a voice for anyone who is suffering. It informs the body of Christ how to provide supportive care, comfort, and encouragement to those who are hurting. In other words, this is a job for the church. When There Are No Easy Answers tells us how to do it, showing us clearly how to relate to people who are suffering.

    This author understands, because he is living this alongside his wife. Not only did I learn how to serve others betters by reading his book, but I discovered what I now need for spiritual comfort in my own situation. I hadn't recognized some of my own needs yet, for I've only been sick with my chronic illness for three years. His wife has suffered for decades.

    Seeking and comprehending the Biblical answers to the problem of pain and evil in the world is an undergirding that is essential to every Christian, for we all will suffer. We should know what God says about this frontwards and backwards, and this book briefly reviews these truths. As a professor of Systematic Theology, Dr. Feinberg assumed he had all the tools he needed for dealing with trial. Then catastrophe struck, and he discovered that we don't really know suffering until we, too, have suffered.

    He learned that in the moment of crisis and in the day-to-day for the long haul, sometimes the suffering don't need the Biblical answers repeated to them. That time will come. But perhaps, what they need in that moment is for someone to sit quietly beside them, for their friends not to forget them, and for someone to come clean their bathroom.

    Most of our offers of help aren't helpful. He details these and why. For instance, and this is merely one of his many examples, he points out that when someone says, "If you need anything, please let me know," the one who offered has in effect given difficult homework to the one suffering.

    Until I read this section in Dr. Feinberg's book, I hadn't recognized that. This type of offer is always difficult for me. I seldom have the energy to come up with an idea, while simultaneously having the certainty that what I need won't be too difficult or repugnant for the offerer to attempt. As a result, I typically never ask for help.

    He writes that it is better for others to listen, to notice what needs to be done, and then to simply show up to help. In his example, a group organized to paint part of their home. When people came to visit they had noticed it needed done, so they did it. Not only did it help immensely, but the suffering ones felt seen, understood, and cherished. Something they could tangibly see every day had been done as an act of love.

    We don't do this well in our churches. I know I did it clumsily in my pre-illness days. I wish I'd seen clearly enough to simply show up to do what they couldn't ask for. I wish I'd had the sensitivity and imagination to recognize the need, even though I hadn't yet experienced what it's like to be debilitated. I also wish I hadn't allowed the harried pace of my life to crowd out acts of service. Before I became sick, I didn't realize that this was the higher and better choice I should have made.

    Most of us are the same. That makes this book a must-read.
  4. Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Personal account of suffering and faith
    July 25, 2016
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Feinberg is an academic and had intellectually studied the problem of evil. Then his wife was diagnosed with Huntington's chorea. In shock, surprise, and pain, he found his intellectual work was of no comfort. What he shares here is his personal story of how he came to still love and serve the God who allows the suffering.

    We would like to think that if we are really trying to seek God's will and be obedient, evil will not befall us. When it does, we wonder if we really want to still worship a God who rewards faithfulness with severe affliction. (17) A crisis of faith often results.

    That is the kind of raw honesty with which Feinberg writes. He shares the stages he went through after his wife's diagnosis. I was interested to read that he realized intellectual answers were of little value for him. This was an emotional problem. A personal experience of affliction, he says, requires pastoral care, not an intellectual discussion.

    The issue, Feiberg writes, is how to live with a God who doesn't prevent or stop the suffering. In helping others live with this reality, he gives good suggestions on what not to say. He lets us know what helped him, such as others allowing him to talk and really listening to him.

    He honestly attacks questions like why some Christians have to suffer so much and others do not. He reveals the error of our expecting God to treat everyone the same, extending the grace of pain free living to all instead of just some. He does explain that affliction is part of living in a sinful world and that the more we follow God, the more we can expect attacks from Satan.

    I recommend this book to those who minister to the afflicted. You won't find any cold intellectual writing about why Christians suffer. You will find an honest account of how one man came to grips with his relationship to God in the midst of affliction. You will receive some good insight into what the afflicted need in the way of ministry. You will also have some good information with which you can think and talk about God and suffering, as an Appendix includes several goals God may want to accomplish in the suffering.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
  5. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    When There Are No Easy Answers
    July 25, 2016
    Linda Brandau
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Grief is a difficult subject to read about and an even more subject to experience. I have read many books that cover this topic, but none covers the experience as well as When There are No Easy Answers by John S. Feinberg.

    People never know what to say to their friends or family members when a tragic illness or death occurs. In this book, the author covers the usual comments that are not helpful, and why they are not helpful. Often scripture is quoted, but misused. Next, he shared how he moved forward and learned to cope with the challenges ahead of him. He even tackled the subject of the suffering Christian in the chapter Grace, Justice, and the Suffering of the Righteous. The book ends with ten ways the God uses suffering.

    This is a deeply personal book in which the author shares his personal thoughts and experiences in an effort to help others. In my opinion, that reaching out to his readers is what makes this book different from others I have read. His experience was with the devastating diagnosis of his wife, but the lessons learned are applicable to all types of grief.

    I wish that the lessons and type of compassion in this book were taught in churches and Sunday schools. I highly recommend this book for those suffering tragedies of their own, but also for those who want to react to those around them in a positive, helpful way.

    I received a copy of When There Are No Answers by John S. Feinberg from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.
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