Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life's Not Fair, but God is Good by Robert H. Schuller

You may remember Robert H. Schuller from the Hour of Power television program. He was a popular figure who attracted celebrities to appear on broadcasts of worship services from the Crystal Cathedral. He preached what you might call a gospel of positivity, making in consciously a successor to Norman Vincent Peale and in some sense a predecessor to Joel Osteen. The Crystal Cathedral and the Schullers have floundered after his passing. Life’s Not Fair, but God is Good was published in happier times for them.

Reading the book two decades after it was published gave me an opportunity to look back. One of the things that struck me is that Schuller wrote of the fall of the Soviet Union soon after it occurred. He had high hopes for Russia and the other countries shifting toward a more democratic form of government. He looked forward to flourishing Christianity, greater freedom, wealth, and opportunity for long oppressed people. I’m not sure what he would think of the current state of affairs, especially in Russia, but clearly fall short of the hopes he expressed.

The book also prompted me to recall the Hour of Power. A routine segment featured Schuller interviewing someone, recorded live before the congregation of his church. Though it is not mentioned, I suspect many of the interviews recounted in the book may have come from the show. These guests were often famous performers, athletes, and politicians. Others were people who overcame troubles of all sorts, handicaps, injuries, financial setbacks, abuse and losses. The common thread through these interviews was how people succeeded through faith in God’s grace, hope, positive outlook and persistence.

Speaking of themes, I should say something about the book. The title expresses the theme: Life’s Not Fair, but God is Good. Schuller concedes that sometimes life sucks. Bad things happen to everyone, and sometimes the worst things happen to those who seem to deserve it least. In spite of that, people can lead lives of purpose and joy because God is good. The Great Redeemer can man something beautiful out of the ugliness of life. Not only can He, He will.

I suppose the meat of the book is advice on how to live in the gap between the unfair circumstances we experience and the awesome goodness we can know even in the midst of them. In this, Schuller presents a mix of Christian philosophy and self-help positive thinking. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose our reactions. Schuller encourages hopeful, positive responses based on the acknowledgment of God’s goodness. Prayer, belief, gratitude, good works, humility, forgiveness, connection to others, generosity, patience, and vision are tools we have, or can develop, to be overcomers in the face of obstacles. We master these skills under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit as we get to know Christ better.

Robert H. Schuller also wrote Self-Love.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in
This Year I Will… by M. J. Ryan

Schuller, Robert H. Life’s Not Fair, but God is Good. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.