I would recommend Dr. John Townsend’s “Where is God? Finding His Presence, Purpose, and Power in Difficult Times.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $16 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Where-God-Finding-Presence-Difficult/dp/0785229191/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262303242&sr=8-1)or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0785229191&title=Where_Is_God&author=Dr._John_Townsend. For further study on this topic, I would also encourage one to read C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem with Pain” and Philip Yancey’s “The Problem with Pain.”
My favorite chapter was titled “The God You Must Not Seek” and focused on our “internal picture of God and how to deal with it if [we] have any desire to clear the way for the One who is for [us] in [you] hard circumstances . . . [the author] deal[s] with several false versions of God that [we] struggle with:
• Angry God: How do [we] feel safe with him?
• Unpleasable God: [We] might as well just give up.
• Disconnected God: He is unavailable.
• Indulgent God: There are no rules to protect [us]” (Townsend, 43-44).
For one reason or another, many of us have the tendency to distort the attributes and actions of God to be someone who he is absolutely not – whether that be One who is bent on wrath, One who is in demand of perfection, One who is far removed from his creation, or One who does not care what we do because all is forgiven in the end. All these distortions are full of deception and end in personal (and most likely corporate) destruction.
I can relate to this warning. Due partially to certain individuals that I came into regular contact with growing up, I have acquired misconceptions of God’s character and still struggle with those ideas to this day. For example, one person I very much loved and trusted, used to promise me time and possessions and then never follow through. I learned quickly to doubt the word of others and to protect myself from further disappointment. On a lighter note, my wife laughs at me and my sports allegiances. I always expect my favorite teams to let me down in the end – thinking about the worst case scenario. This preemptive attitude has served me well considering my two favorite teams – the Los Angeles Dodgers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish – have not hoisted a trophy over their heads in twenty-one seasons (but who is counting). However, she did not laugh at me, while we were dating, and I constantly asked her, “Do you promise?” This was a poor attempt at protecting myself from yet another person breaking my heart – the problem: commitment takes trust. I needed to learn to see the best. Expect the best. Be the best. That is what she deserved and still deserves from me.
I have wrestled with this weakness and in many ways have grown in maturity and health – but I also recognize that I still have the tendency to repeat myself to her. I still expect, deep down, to be let down. Is this any different with my relationship with God? When I graduated from college, even after seeing his direction and provision through that entire process, I doubted that I would ever be hired by a church to youth pastor. Nothing really changed a few years later, upon sensing in my heart of hearts that change was coming our way, because I STILL wondered if I would ever find another place to pastor. There are a few Wednesdays every year where I will be driving home disappointed or discouraged – asking myself, “Am I even doing anything of eternal significance? Will I succeed in God’s eyes? Am I being obedient?” There are seasons in my life where I begin to slowly but surely begin to doubt the dreams that I truly believe that God has placed in my heart. Will I ever . . . does this mean . . . am I destined to be . . . . Why do I continually do this? Isn’t the same God who was gracious enough to call me the same God who is faithful enough to place me?
I am reminded of one biblical author who wrote, “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11, ESV). The New Covenant, the one centered upon Christ, is God’s revelation in all of it’s fullness. We might now know the Father by knowing God. The author encourages the reader to consider the answers to several questions in hopes of revealing one’s distorted viewpoints concerning God. For example, how do you think God feels toward you during difficult circumstances? How do you think he feels when you make a bad decision? I pray that all of us will make every effort this new year in seeking out the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. May we know him through the Inspired Words of Scripture. Through prayer. Through worship. Through Christ-centered community. May this be the year that all of us – from the least to the greatest – know him, are known by him, and make known to others.
Official Book Description: Hard times make us look for God. Everyone has problems. But if we could solve all our difficulties ourselves, would we ever search for God? Psychologist John Townsend says “It is actually the very unfixability of our problems and our powerlessness to bring right results that keep us asking, ‘Where is God?'” With a compelling narrative, Townsend offers new insights into the pursuit for God’s help and presence. Designed to give readers hope and meaning, he divides the discussion into three parts:
* Why does a loving God allow us to experience difficulties?
* How is God active in the middle of our hard times?
* How can I find God?
With powerful stories and practical applications, Where Is God? assures readers that even when it feels as though God is absent it is his nature to be in relationship, to connect with, love, and guide us. And when we seek him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he shows up in ways that transform us forever.