My Review of Holly Burkhalter’s Good God, Lousy World and Me


“I wanted there to be a God who was good and whose creation mirrored it, and it just wasn’t there. So perhaps the term for me was “twisted, pissed-off, betrayed, former Christian.” I can’t find that in the dictionary, but that’s what I was.”

As human rights activist, Holly Burkhalter had seen humanity at its worst. Spending a life time of documenting, reporting, and attempting to persuade those in power to come to the aid victims of terrible torture and suffering, Burkhalter, raised in the Mennonite tradition walked away in part because she believed that a ‘Good God,’ if there was one, would never permit such terrible evil to exist. But she also walked away from her faith because she saw the pain and suffering of mental illness in the life of her grandmother, a devout person of faith, who would be swallowed up in the darkness of depression and wondered where God was.

But two things happened to Burkhalter that began to move her from bitter unbelief to hesitant belief.

First, she and her husband adopted two girls, one from China and one from Vietnam, had them baptized and then went to church. But even then, she notes, ” I did not encounter God… I would watch a sea of people who were intently listening to a voice I couldn’t hear…  It made me bitter, all those years ago, that God’s presence was so readily available to everybody but me. ” Second,  a friendship with Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, a devoutly Christian organization and a sermon Haugen gave (in a “happy-clappy” evangelical church,  Burkhalter noted)  in which she heard about God’s concern for the poor moved her even more toward belief in a God she had given up on.

And as her story unfolds toward hope, and belief, in a God who did care, Burkhalter tells the story of her life growing up in the church and the reality of suffering and pain she witnessed first hand in her own extended family. As she does, she reveals the pain, mental, emotional, and spiritual that she experienced along the way.

What I liked about this book is that while it has a familiar trajectory of belief – doubt/unbelief – emerging belief that I have  read in other books similar to this, it is Burkhalter’s hard, and refreshing, honesty about her current state of faith which makes this a wonderful book to read. She is not a ‘happy-clappy’ believer. She still struggles with doubt, frustration, and even anger with and toward God but yet cannot deny the grace and hope which she has experienced over the course of a decade plus.

I rate this book a ‘great’ read!

The publisher is Convergent Books

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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