Part of our disappointment with God rise from our assumptions as to how God is supposed to work in our world. We also assume that if we are good God will not allow us to suffer. We assume (or are told) that what happened is part of God's plan, or that God willed it to happen.
Hamilton encourages his readers to investigate an alternative way to make sense between God and suffering. (9) We must consider three foundational ideas. First, God has placed humans in charge of the planet, making them responsible for what happens here. Second, God has given us the ability to choose good from evil. Third, humans struggle with the innate tendency to choose those things that are not God's will.
Hamilton then looks at the categories of suffering: natural disasters (God's intervening to stop them would destroy the planet), suffering caused by human decisions (God-given freedom to choose), and suffering caused by sickness (the result of having flesh and blood bodies in our world).
Hamilton suggests we have disappointment in prayer because of our expectations. We look at a passage like Matt. 21:21-22 and expect Jesus to answer our every prayer. When that doesn't happen, we are told it is our fault, that we lack faith. Hamilton says Jesus often spoke in hyperbole and we should not take a passage like that one literally. Hamilton speaks to the disaster it would be if Jesus answered “yes” to every prayer.
He gives examples of unanswered prayer in the New Testament. They teach us that God does not always answer our prayers as we want but God does not abandon us. He works through the situation for His power to be displayed. God intends us to be the answer to the prayers of others, yet He will not force someone to be the answer to prayer.
Hamilton then addresses how to discern God's will. He suggests we write our own story, with or without God. Ours is part of a much larger story. We need to remember “that the difficult chapters are never the final chapters in our story.” (71)
Hamilton summarizes how he believes “God works in the world and how our faith in God sustains and gives us hope.” (77) He suggests “that God walks with us, that God works through us, that God forces evil and suffering to serve us, and that God ultimately will deliver us.” (77)
This is not a theological work. This is a small book that can be given to someone who feels God has disappointed them. It will not solve all of their theological issues but will give them a basis from which to begin to understand how God works. I am not sure Hamilton is correct in the section about God's sovereignty and man's free will, but it is a difficult subject and perhaps we will never know on this earth how those two truths work together.
I received an egalley from Abingdon Press for the purpose of this review.
Abingdon Press, 97 pages.