This is me tonight:
Again. I did it to myself — I read the The Fault In Our Stars on vacation in December on a train and had to put it down several times because I didn’t want to cry in public in a foreign country. But it was such a good book that when I saw it on Audible for less than $5.00 right when I was about to start a big data entry project at work I bought it – against my better judgement.
You see those contradictions right? It was a wonderful book, but I bought against my better judgment.
But really, it’s a great book. Wonderful, smart, funny, writing. Writing with real depth. Characters that are worth crying for. It has it all, and oh boy will it traumatize you. In a good way, I think.
This book asks all of the right questions, being a book about teenagers and cancer. It’s thought provoking, challenging, and insightful. I have great respect for John Green, the man who created Hazel and Augustus — it’s amazing to see the product of such God-given imagination, writing talent and emotional depth in literature.
The reason this book leaves a hole in my heart is that it is so real. The whole book just rings of emotional and experiential truth. It’s just raw. In a good way. But it’s also incomplete. John Green writes Young Adult fiction because he wants to write to teenagers. He counts it a privilege to be an influence in a time when teenagers are beginning to determine their worldview (he talks about this in an interview at the end of the audio version of the book that I just listened to). He also left the path to ministry in the Episcopal church because of what he felt were insufficient answers to the questions that must be confronted when children suffer from terminal diseases.
In light of that experience, I would have expected more satisfying answers in his book. But they weren’t there! The questions are all there, and none of the answers except that cancer and dying are a side-effect of evolution – a failed mutation. There is probably some sort of after-life, but there can’t be a God who knows us and cares about suffering.
Instead of giving answers, he leaves the characters and readers alike in ambiguity. But maybe that’s his point. Maybe he is just trying to say, “I don’t know the answers.” He seems to have given up on “God-with-us” idea when he saw the cruel outworking the Fall in the lives of children.
But I think his answers are the easy way out of dealing with hard questions. Suffering exists to bring glory to an infinitely worthy God (here and here are good articles about this, and here‘s a book I’d recommend). Our sovereign God is out for our ultimate good – which includes a whole eternity beyond this earthly life. Suffering may rip our heart and body to pieces on earth, but it won’t last forever. And do we, the prized possessions of a God who sent his own son to die for us, really have cause to question his methods of bringing about our ultimate joy in the eternity to come? I don’t think so.
I hope that one day he finds the true answers to his questions. I hope that one day the teenagers that he’s influencing hear the truth and believe it too. I hope that one day his creativity will teach his teenage audience about a sovereign, loving God who is working all things for our good and his glory.
But until then, let’s use his wonderful talent as a springboard for discussion about hard issues. Let’s be cut to the quick by the suffering he so brilliantly displays in his book. God can use even misguided talent for his glory. Let’s not let John Green waste his.
[photo credit: I tried to find it, but this photo is all over the place, so I’m not sure where it started. I first saw it on Pinterest.]