We’ve all done it. Someone comes to us with something they are struggling with and instead of walking with them through the struggle we respond with a simple sentence all wrapped up and topped with a beautiful bow. “Ta-da” we say. We have a perfect cliché to answer that problem. Adam Hamilton’s book Half Truth” explores these popular sayings that may carry a speck of truth, but often miss the point. These sayings often sound Christian and some people may even assume they come from scripture. However, Hamilton takes these sayings, compares them to the wisdom that is in scripture and explains how they are often not only harmful but sometimes even dangerous. Hamilton explores the phrases “everything happens for a reason,” “God helps those who help themselves,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” and “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Hamilton shares this story in the closing of his book: “I spoke to a man recently who had lost his wife to cancer. He shared his grief and then said, ‘Pastor, I just don’t understand why God had to take my wife.’ As we talked, I gently shared with him that I did not believe God gives people cancer and that his wife’s death was a result of an illness, not the will of God. He felt liberated by the idea that God had not willed his wife’s death, that God had grieved with him, and that God had not taken his wife but had embraced her at her death.” To tell this man that everything happens for a reason is to imply that God intentionally took this man’s wife and is the source of his agony. To say to this man that God will not give us more than we can handle is to dismiss this man’s grief. This pain, unchallenged, could cause someone to lose their faith.
This is a challenging book that encourages us not to give or seek simple answers to complex situations. This book may not be all together comforting because if forces us to look deep within ourselves — to question our own beliefs and how we share these beliefs with others. Hamilton ends his book reminding us of the truths that we can know. We do know that God is always with us and working to bring good through whatever happens. We do know that God is gracious. We can be shaped and guided through interpretation of the whole of scripture. We do know that Jesus calls us to love everyone and recognize our own sinfulness.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in challenging themselves, asking tough questions, and seeking to better understand their own faith in moments of crisis. And if the book brings up challenges and concerns that you would like to further discuss, your pastors are ready and willing.