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Where the Hell is God?

HiddenSpring, 2010

Reviewed by Karyl Davison

Reading this little book while much of Queensland struggles with the devastation of unprecedented flooding, gives added poignancy and relevance to its contents. When Fr Leonard’s sister suffered catastrophic injuries in a vehicle accident, his own response, and that of other Christians forced him to think through the age old question “Where the hell is God?”

In the months that followed the accident, Leonard received “some of the most appalling and frightening letters” from “some of the best Christians” he knew.

Many of us will be familiar with such responses in the face of suffering and loss: the person, the community, the group of people, must have done something that deeply offended God and must accept God’s punishment; the person is building up a mansion in heaven for when they die; or you must be really blessed because God only sends such suffering to those who can bear them. Others tried to be comforting by suggesting that “it’s all a mystery” or “it’s part of God’s plan”. This book addresses the terrible theology behind such responses which rather than drawing us closer to God, often alienates us from God.

In each of seven chapters, Leonard outlines his steps to spiritual sanity when we ask “Where the hell is God?” Drawing on his own experience and wisdom, he argues that God is not out ‘to get us’ by directly sending us pain, suffering and disease. God does not send accidents or loss to teach us things (although we can learn from them) and God does not will natural disasters. Leonard urges Christians to prayer, not because we can change God’s mind, but to change us so we can change the world.

As Christians in Queensland at the very beginning of 2011, it is critical that we too think carefully about our responses to people’s heartfelt question: Where the hell is God?

Christian platitudes have no place at any time, but particularly at times of great grief and loss.

Not only will this book force you to assess your image of God, but it will help you address the inevitable questions about the goodness of God and the existence of suffering and evil that suffering raises.

Everyone involved in pastoral ministry should read this book!