One of the best spiritual books I have read in recent years is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey. He has a wonderful approachable style and humility and yet offers real insight into difficult questions. So when I so The Question That Never Goes Away available on Kindle for free I jumped at it.
Some days, the news seems too much to bear. Yet another tsunami or earthquake or flood or fire or war atrocity. One more gun-toting madman stalking young people in idyllic Norway or moviegoers in Colorado or schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut. We turn off the news only to get a phone call about expectant parents with a stillborn baby, or a loved one whose cancer has returned.
Really, God? we ask. This again?
If we have faith in God, it gets shaken to the core. What was God doing in the moment when that tragedy could have been prevented? If we can’t trust God to keep our children safe or our loved ones from dying in agony, what can we trust God for?
In his classic book Where Is God When It Hurts, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people. Now, with new perspectives and stories gathered across nearly twenty-five years, once again he tackles the hard questions head-on. His visits to three places in 2012 raised the old problems with new urgency.
I dipped into it to get a flavor and it was compelling enough that I stayed with it until the finish. Yancey doesn’t offer any particular groundbreaking insights into suffering or the theme that has followed him his entire career, Where is God When It Hurts?. But he is a smooth and natural writer and brings as sense of humility and grace to the tragedies in Japan, Sandy Hook/Newton, Sarajevo, etc.
This is a slim book, roughly 176 pages, and Yancey spends time discussing both his past and the events surrounding these tragedies and his role in their aftermath. So if you are expecting an in-depth theological exploration of the problem of evil or theodicy this is not it. Rather it is a meditation on, and exploration of, these events and Yancey’ thinking as it has evolved and developed over the years.
He acknowledges the brutal realities but insists that while there are no easy answers God’s presence is with us IN the dark times; that every event and every person offers the possibility of redemption and renewal. And the way Yancey handles it it does not feel like a cop out but an honest realization of where we find ourselves. Not rescued away from evil and pain but accompanied and comforted within the darkness with a promise that as hard as it may be to believe, God is making all things new. Evil will not win the ultimate battle. This is what faith requires. God’s people are called to bring his grace and marcy into the darkness to be a partner in making his presence known. Yancey recognizes that there is beauty and comfort here.
A short but well done mediation on a perennial question. No easy answers but hard earned wisdom.