The Promise: God’s Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts

Father Jonathan Morris

HarperOne, 2008

230 pages, $24.95

To order: harperone.com

(212) 207-7000


A friend is diagnosed with cancer. A relative dies in a car accident. Where is God when it hurts?

In The Promise, Father Jonathan Morris, a Fox News analyst, tackles the big question. If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why do we experience pain and suffering?

Although it is written in a lively, conversational tone, The Promise is a book to meditate and reflect on. Even more so, it is a book intended to change your life. With thought-provoking questions, Father Morris seeks to engage the reader on a deeper level.

Father Morris is fully aware of the depth of people’s pain and suffering as well as their anger and resentment toward a God they do not understand. As he unfolds his case for a loving God, he shares numerous e-mails that express anger and disappointment.

There’s this one from Clare, for example: “I prayed and prayed at the hospital that my husband would live, but my prayers were not answered. I just cannot seem to grasp anything about life at all right now. How can I ever find joy in life again without my husband by my side on this earth? Yes, I know he is with me in spirit, but I yearn for his physical presence. ...”

Father Morris does not brush away suffering or poignant questions with mere platitudes. Going beyond textbook answers, he provokes the reader to search his conception of God: Do you think of him as a “vending machine, clock maker, buffet, cop or life insurance?”

He challenges us to consider another view of God outside these limiting conceptions: “Total trust in God in the face of suffering depends in part upon the vision we have of him, upon how we answer the penetrating question Jesus directed to his apostles: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:15).”

The last section on inner transformation is definitely a call to arms to draw the reader closer to God. With an outline for creating a concrete plan of action, it asks penetrating questions: Can you identify your “root sin?” Do you know its opposing virtue? Can you identify the major threats to your spiritual life?

In other words, it is not enough to read about becoming a better person. What are we going to do about it? He offers us the tools to discern God’s plan for “personal freedom and fulfillment.”

At times it is difficult to read the despairing comments about divorce, personal suffering or blaming God. These stories, however, have a purpose. Father Morris is determined to answer all the objections to a personal, loving God.

This is a book for those who need to heal the debilitating wounds of their past, deepen their relationship with God, or overcome the obstacles that are keeping them from becoming the person Christ intended them to be.

Elizabeth Yank writes from

South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.