One of the greatest obstacles to faith for many people is the problem of suffering. Why would a good God allow pain and grief? The power of this paradox is undeniable. Theodicy—a defense of the goodness of God in the face of evil—is perhaps most difficult when confronting the suffering of innocent children. When children are in pain, we often can’t help but wonder: Why would God allow this?
It is this most compelling challenge to faith that Sarah Clarkson tackles in her new memoir and exploration of theodicy, This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness. In this gripping story, the child whose suffering calls faith into question is that of Sarah Clarkson herself.
In vulnerable and heartbreaking passages, Clarkson describes how mental illness broke in and presented a rival story of brokenness to the narrative of goodness in her happy childhood. Enduring violent, terrifying, and perverse thoughts that disoriented and violated her brain due to a rare form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Clarkson’s agonizing pain moved her to question the basic tenets of what she’d been taught about God. Could God be good if he allowed these disturbing and excruciating images to invade her mind and destroy her happiness? She needed answers.