Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Insanity of God: Oddly Encouraging

The Insanity of God is hard to categorize.  Combine the inexplicable suffering of Job, the intense action and miracles of Mark, and the simple repetitive language of 1 John and you have a start.  I read it last month on Mom's Kindle, mostly late at night after coming home alone from caring for her in the nursing home, and found it oddly encouraging.  It is the story of a man with character strengths and flaws meeting a God who is not "tame".

Nik Ripken is a pseudonym.  But his story is true, and more unsettling than any work of fiction.  He and his wife went to Africa as missionaries and he wound up trying to provide basic provisions for the people of Somalia for 6 years in the 90's.  The work was extremely demanding and unsafe.  He was there before the UN arrived and he stayed on after they left.  He witnessed all kinds of tragic situations and at the end of it all, he was unsure whether he had done any lasting good whatsoever.  When funds dried up and he finally had to shut his work down, one of his sons died suddenly of a freak asthma complication.

Deeply discouraged, he returned to the US with his wife and remaining two sons.  Then he got the idea to travel to countries where the church has lived or is living through intense persecution, to ask them what has helped them thrive under suffering.  He thought perhaps he could use this to help the Somalian church, which had been nearly exterminated.  The experiences and conversations he had are enough to make any VOM worker envious.  Suffice it to say that you could make compelling feature-length movies out of many chapters from this book.

But oddly, the book itself is not exceptionally well-written, despite the help of a co-author.  The story is told simply; sometimes with unnecessary repetition and sometimes with colorless language.  But the story itself will keep you reading even when the words do not.  The book lacks much interaction with Scripture; don't base your theology on it. 

Most interestingly, the book does not have a picture perfect ending.  Dr. Ripken opens the jagged edges of his life story to you, and leaves you with the same questions and uncertainties that he still faces.  You will question some of his decisions, and be inspired by others. 

I have read a lot of books about the persecuted church, and this is now my fifth-most favorite book in that category.  (The top four are, in order: Tortured for Christ, God's Smuggler, In God's Underground, and Faith That Endures.)  If you have a Kindle and want to read it, I can loan you my copy for free.

Please check out the video trailer below. 
"Insanity of God" from imb connecting on Vimeo.

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