PW: What prompted you to write Why?: Trusting God When You Don't Understand?
Anne Graham Lotz: To be honest, the real reason is one that I just can't quite share. But generally speaking, it was prompted by several deaths of people that were close to me, and also things that have happened around the world. Why would God withhold a child from wonderful parents and then give children to a mother who then bashes their heads against a rock? How can pedophiles prey upon innocent children and then continue in ministry? I think suffering is a very timely subject, because in America, even within the church, we're a nation of escape artists. We don't want to suffer. The rest of the world expects to suffer; for them it's just a question of when. Here, we have this expectation for a life that will be healthy and prosperous all the time.
PW: Your books always draw heavily on biblical examples to help readers understand your points.
AGL: This whole book is based on John 11, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. At the beginning of that chapter, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that someone he loved was sick. Implied in that was that they wanted him to come. But he didn't answer them, and stayed where he was two more days. Including the travel time for him to get the message, it was four whole days before he came, and by then Lazarus had died. One sister, Martha, begins this dialogue with Jesus, and he moves her from an intellectual questioning to a faithful resting in his plan and purpose.
PW: What kinds of specific personal situations have led you to wonder why God allows suffering?
AGL: My son was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28; he's now almost 34. He's 6'10", drop-dead handsome, a strong athlete. And the cancer just came out of the blue. Now he's in remission, but there's a cloud that hangs over us all the time. And it's painful to see my mother [Ruth Bell Graham] suffering at the end of her life. She's always been so spunky and full of life, extremely intelligent and sharp as she can be. It's hard to see her just disappear, to get smaller and smaller, and be so confused. She's confined to a wheelchair and is in pain from degenerative arthritis. This is tough because from my perspective, she's always been so faithful. So supportive of my father [evangelist Billy Graham], and loving and good. But God is love; he has a greater purpose in mind than I can know.
PW: Why, in your view, does God permit suffering?
AGL: I'll give you the pat answer, and then tell you that there's no answer. The pat answer is in Genesis 2, when man chose to sin and rebel against God's perfect plan. As a direct result of sin, suffering entered into the world. Suffering and pain were not God's original plan. But still, God grieves. My question is that since suffering isn't part of God's plan, why doesn't he alleviate it? The answer is that sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes, there are reasons for us to have pain. God wants us to know by experience that his grace is sufficient for us. Brokenness leads to blessing, suffering leads to glory and death leads to life.
PW: What are you working on now?
AGL: I'm not working on a book right now. I'm working so hard in our ministry. We just finished Heaven, My Father's House on DVD, and I've been doing "Just Give Me Jesus" revivals. I go to San Juan tomorrow, then Seattle and Chicago. I suspect that sometime this year, I'll write something. I wait for the Lord to touch my heart. I never write something just because an agent thinks it will sell.