Tonight I share with you a book review that has taken me a very long time to write. Why? Because it has changed my life. It has changed many of my thought processes about helping and counseling people. It actually scared me so much that when I read it, I physically threw the book down because of my emotional reaction to what I was reading.
This is no normal book for sure. This is a life changing book – especially for anyone who has suffered tragedy in their lives in any form. It is also life changing for those of us whose job it is to counsel and pastor those we love. Even as I write this review, I am reminded of what I read and it still scares me!!
To quote the back cover of the book:
“If God Is Love, Why Do We Hurt So Much?”
The Author, Matt Bays, has been in ministry for twenty years, but has been in emotional hell for the better part of his life and in this book, he puts it all out there. All of the absolutely horrific stories of a childhood draped in hellish abuse. Stories of questioning God’s love for us, God’s ability to be in charge, and God’s standing by and watching as day after day our world fills more and more with depravity and despair.
The stories Matt tells about his childhood are things you only normally see told in horror films. I will not spoil a single word, thought, or concept in this book because every word needs to be savored, but you can take my word for it that when you read what happened to this man as he was growing up, your heart will melt, break, shudder, and all but leap from your chest.
As if a childhood filled with abuse was not enough, Matt’s life never seems to get any better and he simply cannot catch a break as close friends commit suicide, his siblings die and get cancer, and he finds himself swirling around the depths of a drinking problem. You will read about suicide, cancer, loss, and the absolute lowest of lows. At times, I cried so hard when I was reading that my tears caused the ink on the pages to smear. How in the world could anyone do these things to another human being, much less a child?
But they did – and they do every day of every month of every year.
So why on Earth does God just sit by and watch it all happen? Why do young children get sexually, verbally. and mentally abused while the people who do the abusing skip right on through life? He is God right? He created everything so He has the power to stop everything as well – the abusers, the killers, the suicides, the school shooters, the freak accidents that take our loved ones. Right? He can right? So why doesn’t He??!!
Matt wrote an extremely powerful sentence that caused me to stop and ponder it for many days – “When someone takes their own life, those of us left in the afterkill wait for an answer to a question we never asked. And without answers, we either lumber around like zombies in an old movie or change the channel to a cooking show.” Suicide and even freak accidents or untimely deaths leave those left behind in a state that can only be described as “devoid of hope and love.”
The answer he speaks of is “why?” More time has been spent by people asking that question and looking for answers to that question that will never come here on this Earth. But we are a people of justice, a society built upon justice. Those who do wrong get punished. We NEED answers, or at least we think we do in order to get on with our lives.
At one point Matt comes to the conclusion that he could probably do a better job of running the world than God could! That paragraph chilled me to the bone because it took me to a place I had never been before. After all, as a counselor and pastor I need to find just the right Bible verse, or parable, or story that will help people feel better and get them through their “dark days in the valley of the shadow of death.” This book teaches – most of the time, “pretty words” don’t help. In fact, they hurt.
Luckily, Matt is able to come back to “center” and to a better place through years of counseling and confiding in friends and his sister. The latter part of the book sees Matt answering all of these questions for the reader and it is here that the learning happens. It is here that hope is found. It is here that your heart will heal. Praise God!
I hope you can tell, I consider this book a must read, but I will say that if you are not in a right mind or the right mood, sometimes it is better to put it down and come back to it at another time. This book scratches at the soul – it tears at the heart – it forces you to question all you know and learned about God. Then it finished by assuring you that things can and WILL be ok. After all, if you have read the Bible and trust Jesus as Savior, then you know how the story ends!
I give this book my highest rating possible. It is everything you hoped you would never have to read about but it also proves that we humans can go through so very much and yet still come out the back end with our faith whole, thanks to the very same God who seems to let “the bad people win far too much.”
Pastor Brad Komgenick