Townsend, John. Where is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose, and Power in Difficult Times. Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson, 2009. 212 pp. $15.99.
Dr. John Townsend has written many books, especially with his Dr. Henry Cloud, a longtime coauthor, over the years. As I have enjoyed his other writings, this one peaked my interest the most and has become one of the books I recommend to Christian believers going through hard times or atheist friends who ask the question, “Where is God When __________ Happened?” Typically the question comes to the forefront when a natural disaster hits the mainstream news and fills our television sets for nights on end, picking at our mind like a splinter in the brain. Even the strongest God-fearing person begins to ask the question in particularly hard times.
What Townsend does is takes a meta-narrative approach using the letter P – looking into three main themes – Power of God, Presence of God, and Purpose of God in relationship to suffering, pain, and hard times. This provides the boundaries of how he will address the questions and Scriptures that illuminate ancient wisdom and practical applications to the struggles at hand. Therefore, the book is both deep in respect to Scripture and study of the topics and yet approachable as modern day applications for the reader can be applies readily. Further, he proves end-notes to the plethora of books and articles referenced and an appendix full of further reading for the seeker of knowledge on this subject. The appendix in and of itself is worth the cost of having this worthy read.
Of particular help to me during a recent season of suffering where chapters seven through ten. Each chapter begins with, “The God Who…
…Suffers with Me.”
…Works Behind the Scenes.”
…Connects You to Others.”
These chapters are best summarized by stating that suffering is truly a grace that allows us to grow in a manner never gained without experience. Just as God’s grace allows us to move beyond certain painful events, God’s grace on the other side of the coin is when we do not get passed over. When it is our time to suffer, God is leading us into a deeper grace then we can experience otherwise. We can allow this time to be of no growth or use to us, or we can embrace it, learn from it, redeem it, and become all the better for it.
Further, these four chapters also made for excellent sermon material as I have preached on the topic of pain and suffering from my own experience and the wisdom of others, like Dr. Townsend. Where is God? is not the only book on the topic of suffering, pain, and the journey of questioning God’s goodness, but it is one of the most comprehensive on the topic (barring buying a theology tomb used in graduate work in theology). Also of note, Townsend has written an approachable book for those who are not theologically educated explaining terms as needed and often illuminating terminology that could easily get in the way of the reader. His research proves his knowledge, not his frequent use of terms that are not beneficial to the modern reader.
I have given this book 4 stars instead of five, not because it isn’t worthy of five stars, as it surely is, minus one major drawback, it’s length. Although many who suffer are looking for resources to help them through their pain, the comprehensiveness of the book may be it’s only drawback. I love reading books, but in a world of limited time, books such is this may profit from being separated into two or three. Townsend could have done this using his three P approach from the title and found a far greater audience of those who fear picking up a thick book.
All in all, I highly recommend the book to pastors, educators, and counselors as they journey alongside their people who are suffering through pain, loss, and doubt. Where is God? would also be advantageous to those who work alongside or minister to twenty somethings and millennials. The age bracket is ripe with questions, doubts, and new pains as the young person grows into life’s more difficult and troubling situations.
No matter of your life is tracking along well or you are going through one of the toughest situation of your life, this book can be a solid, healthy resource for your journey.
As a pastor I heard once proclaim, “You are more than likely just coming out of a storm, journeying through a storm, or preparing for the next storm in your life. Rarely do the waters stay calm for long.”
Well said and rightly so. Dr. John Townsend Where is God? is a book for all three stages.
*Note: I was proved this book free for review from BookLook Bloggers.