IVP, 2013 £8.99
Pb 176pp, ISBN 9781844746194
Reviewed by Laurence Crutchlow, a London GP and CMF Associate Head of Student Ministries
It is all too easy to reduce suffering to an intellectual question, forgetting that the questioner is very often dealing with a deep personal hurt that is behind what they ask. An inspiring story about a baby with holoprosencephaly is the first of five personal stories that ensure this book is much more than an intellectual response to questions about suffering. A logical and clear approach looks at both questions of individual suffering, particularly around illness, and wider questions such as natural disasters. Dirckx's scientific background comes across clearly, as does her experience of caring for her husband during illness.
I particularly liked the focus on our personal role ('Am I responsible for anyone else's suffering?' is one chapter heading), and the constant pointers back to Jesus' work on the cross ('Can a broken story be fixed?'). Although accessible for non-Christians, I think this book will be of most help to Christians who struggle with their own questions about suffering.
Quotations draw heavily on others associated with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics where Dirckx is based, which may seem a little narrow to some. There is also a chapter looking at whether religion itself causes suffering, which addresses this common question of today. It is for its contemporary relevance and clear thought that I would primarily recommend this book; it may not replace The Problem of Pain on most bookshelves, but complements CS Lewis and others with its insight into questions being asked by many.