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Good God Lousy World and Me

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"Good God, Lousy World, and Me" by Holly Burkhalter

good god

It took me a little while to make it all the way through this book because I couldn’t stop crying– sad and happy tears. There were so many times when all I could do was shake my head and laugh and think dear LORD do I ever know what she means.

One of the things that I’ve loved about all the books I’ve read from Convergent has been that the authors are not just honest. I’ve read plenty of books where the voicing has been authentic, when you could feel how genuine the author is– but Convergent books take it one step further. Almost all of the other religious books I’ve read are desperately trying to wrap up all of their books with a bow, to tie it up with a neat, uncomplicated, applicable message. Even Rachel Held Evans– whose writing I love– sort of beats you over the head with her point at times.

Holly’s book doesn’t do that. She invites you into the struggles of her life and is straight with you the entire way through, but she leaves it to you to think about what she’s said. There are very few conclusions presented anywhere in the book, and they’re all in the context of this is my story, this is where I’ve gotten.

At times, it’s actually been a frustrating thing to experience, for me. The fundamentalist that lives in a tiny sliver of my brain gets upset and starts shouting no, just tell me what to think about this! Make an argument for your position and defend it, dammit! That Holly never does that is a beautiful thing, and I’m glad that the part of me that wants the neatly packaged apologetics manual is getting smaller.

I want an answer to the question that was at the core of Holly’s life: If God is good, why is there so much suffering? It is the single greatest roadblock to my faith, and there are many days when I can’t get around it, and Holly talks about the days when she couldn’t get around it, either– both as a non-believer and as a Christian. I’m still there, inhabiting this question, and I can’t see a point in my near future where I’ve settled this, where I’ve resolved it. Holly hasn’t either– and that comforted me. I’ve grown to strongly resent it when much older Christians are blithe about suffering, who seem perfectly content to ignore the darkness in this world and chirp about how amazing God is when they keep their tire from going flat.

That was one of my favorite stories Holly shares– it was about a woman who praised God for keeping their tires inflated when they were in the middle of a war-torn, genocide-stricken African country. Holly’s reaction is my reaction– seriously?! How can someone thank God for the state of some rubber when they just spent all day talking to people ripped apart by shrapnel?

That the bulk of Christian culture seems just as happy to not truly, actually confront the darkness and evil in this world is one of the biggest things that bothers me about it. They can effortlessly hide so far behind their privilege that they can’t even identify the fact that they’re hiding. Well, Holy confronts it– has spent her entire adult life face-to-face with it, and came out on the other side of it a believer.

That gives me a lot of hope. Some days I’m barely holding on to my faith, and the darkest moments come when I have to ask myself is the only reason why I’m still a Christian because I don’t want to face the bleak reality of a world without God in it?

Holly, over the course of her book, points to all the reasons why she believes in God. Because of prayer (a concept I do not understand … at all), because of compassion, and empathy, and love, and kindness, and help. Because of Christians, because of people, who see a world full of pain and want to do something to end it.

Reading this book helped settle some of my doubts, although they’ll never be completely gone. It’s nice when love is the answer to a question you’ll always have.

note: I received this book in exchange for my review on “Blogging for Books.”