Jim Davis, a good friend of mine, has written a book on suffering titled Why Me? And Why That’s the Wrong Question. The book is about the questions we ask during hard times, including some that do us little good (“why me?”) and some that lead us closer to God (“what can God accomplish through this trial?”). I’ve already had a sneak peak at the book and I highly recommend it. I met Jim at the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference two years ago, and he and Sue Hume and I became good friends instantly. I am thrilled to introduce you to Jim and this book. He graciously agreed to let me interview him. So sit back and enjoy.
1. Jim, why did you decide to write a book about suffering?
Years ago, several people in the Sunday School class I was teaching went through painful times. People were asking, Why did such a bad thing happen to people who are trying their best to follow Jesus? Why does God perform miracles in some cases but not others? I was completely unequipped to deal those questions, and I wanted to provide answers. I decided to study the subject so that I could be a better teacher. At the time, I never dreamed that I would write a book.
I read dozens of books, studied the Bible, and prayed. I soon realized that my original goal was pretty naïve. No matter how hard I studied, I was not going to be able to answer those questions. God does not answer them in the Bible, and no one else has done so.
But my study convinced me that we were asking the wrong questions about suffering. Our questions are typically me-centered, not God centered. Now, I think it perfectly normal to have questions when you are grieving, but some people never stop asking the why me questions, so they become bitter and pull away from God. The questions healthy people eventually ask, and the ones God directs us to in the Bible, center on Him: How can God be glorified? How can He use this trial to draw me closer? How can this trial make me more like Jesus?
I developed a series of Bible Study lessons dealing with the “wrong” and the “right” questions. I considered writing a Bible Study on the subject, but when I gathered the material and saw how much I had already written, I prayed about it and decided to turn it into a book instead.
2. How does this book differ from the other books out on suffering? What can the reader hope to gain from reading this book?
A lot of books on the shelves try to answer the why me questions, whereas mine asks whether we are even focusing on the right questions. Other writers – many of whom I have great respect for – try to defend the goodness of God in the face of so much pain in the world. I don’t fault people who write those books or the people who read them, but I think it is unhelpful to dwell too long on the why me questions. It’s hard to stay close to God if we have our hands on our hips and are demanding that He explain Himself. At some point, we have to accept that there are mysteries involved with suffering. Although many faithful people in the Bible ask why me?, God never answers that question in the Bible. Instead, He gives us Himself, and my book tries to direct people to questions that will help us see that He is enough.
I wrote this book for people who, whether they are in a trial themselves or have seen other people suffer, have questions about God’s love when we or our loved ones are in pain. Our logic tells us that if God loved us, he would not allow us to hurt so much. I want those people to see that even if God chooses not to explain Himself fully, He gives us assurance of His love and promises that all will be made right. He wants us to trust Him.
Someone who is in the middle of a trial will be comforted by the study of God’s Word and the certainty that God cares deeply about our suffering. Those who want to be better equipped to minister to hurting people will find Scripture to help them speak faithfully on the subject. And those who just want to dig into a meaty Bible Study will find questions for small groups at the end of each chapter.
4. How has God used the process of writing this book in your own life?
God has dealt with me in three ways, two of which give me joy and one of which makes nervous.
First, He has taught me that no plans I could make are as exciting as what He comes up with. I never had the least desire to write a book before this project developed, but I’ve never been part of a ministry as rewarding and enjoyable as writing this book.
Second, He has given me a heart for suffering people. I’m better equipped now to minister to a person in a trial. I don’t think we should walk into the funeral home sharing our theology; a person in the middle of grief mainly needs to know that we care and that we love her. But if she wants to discuss her questions, I now have a better Scriptural foundation to talk to her.
Third – and this is the one that makes me a bit anxious – I feel like God is preparing me for the trials that will come my way. God may be strengthening me now so that when that time comes, I will still be able to rejoice in Him. I will move on to the right questions that focus on Him and His glory.
You can purchase this book at Lifeway or on Amazon.com.