Book Review: The North Face of God, Ken Gire

The North Face of God: Hope for the times when God seems indifferent
by Ken Gire | Tyndale
Amazon link

At the time of this writing, this is my favorite book on the topic of God and suffering, or at least one significant aspect of it: God’s apparent quiet/distance when we feel we need Him most.

As I read this and other works by Ken Gire this past year, I felt as if I was sitting at the feet of some wise sage, absorbing wisdom beyond my ability to completely fathom, yet relating in a way that made me wonder if he had somehow lived some of my life with me, or read some of my thoughts as I struggled with the difficult questions of life.

This excerpt summarizes the topic of this book:

It didn’t make sense. Why was God so near to him [David] in the palace, yet so far from him in the wilderness?

For these characters in biblical history, the silence was likely more confusing than their suffering, and the abandonment they felt more painful than their affliction.

In our own experience with God, at some time or another, we have all encountered the silence of heaven. Many of us have felt abandoned by God. And we have known the pain of unanswered questions.

Beyond the wisdom and the apparent intimacy of Gire’s message in this book, I find myself as attracted to the artistry with which he addresses this difficult topic. It is just beautifully written, and somehow I find that to be part of its strength. Some examples:

the Psalms were a pooling of tears, and in their reflection he saw his own furrowed brow, his own bloodshot eyes, his own desperate tears.

and…

There are times when hope and history simply won’t rhyme. How do you rhyme the Exodus with the Holocaust?

and another…

When suffering shatters the carefully kept vase that is our lives, God stoops to pick up the pieces. But he doesn’t put them back together as a restoration project patterned after our former selves. Instead, he sifts through the rubble and selects some of the shards as raw material for another project—a mosaic that tells the story of redemption.

Yet perhaps the best reason to recommend this book is Gire’s lack of fear to fully engage, pulling no punches, with the difficulties of this important topic. I love how, in one chapter, Gire rips to shreds a Christian slogan that is often thrown out sarcastically, thoughtlessly, to people struggling with God: “If God seems distant, guess who moved?” Gire is more honest, more blunt, more raw in his reflections on the silence of God in times of suffering than I am used to hearing from Christians and from the Church.

And in his honesty is power.

Comments

  1. Viron T and Margaret Kersh says:

    Dan, We just read your excellent article in Guideposts and are very interested in you. Was your father A. E. Woolley? My husband Viron T. Kersh considered A. E. a very good friend and associate. A. E. and my husband worked together at times. We lived in Baton Rouge in the 50s where several photographers became very good friends and continued their friendships. We moved to New Orleans and lived there until retirement 21 years ago. We now live in a small town in SE Mississippi. We would love to hear from you.