Monday, December 28

Book Report: Where is God when it Hurts? By Lisa.

During our past trip to Houston I finished reading “Where is God when it hurts?” by Phillip Yancey. Now, I’ve read good books on the Christian philosophy of suffering before (Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” comes to mind) but never such a good book on the human response to suffering. I highly recommend this book and even have a copy for lending. For those of you who can’t drop everything to begin here are the points which stuck out to me:

Even well-thought out philosophy falls short when it comes to the essential question “Why? Why does Ben have this cancer?” Yancey points back to Job’s story in response. Many of Job’s words are recorded in that book of the Bible and one of his main themes was that if only he could only stand before God and present his case God would answer him. Dramatically, at the end of the book God does speak! Does he say why Job suffered horrendously? Nope. Instead He asked Job “Do you even have the capacity to understand? Can you approach my power and knowledge in governing this universe?” Beautiful. Job is humbled. In this world we won’t know Why. The answer to the central question of suffering is rather faith in God.

This is not to say that we can’t find meaning in suffering. There are many reasons for our trials we will understand as we go through them and look back – through the grace of God as he gives us understanding. This knowledge is certainly comforting, but doesn’t replace faith.

Of and on Yancey revisits the question of what to say and do around suffering people. I’ll come back to that in another blog post, but it’s a good question.

The other theme that stuck with me through this book is that of physical pain’s purpose. The first section of the book examines leprosy, a disease of the nerves. When nerves stop alerting us to damage we no longer care for our bodies – this is evidenced in leprosy’s patients decaying hands, drying eyes (which are not told to blink, without pain) and general sores. Leprosy’s foremost physician estimates that 99% of pain is effective in making our body aware and responsive to its own needs (the other 1% being the out-of-control pain that is not helpful).

At the end of the book, as you might expect, Yancey ties back his examination to the body of Christ. What ties us together as a body and helps us to care for each other’s needs? Pain. A functioning body of Christ does not leave any suffering member to itself.

Further, Yancey points out that when Christ was on earth he was the physical and spiritual presence of God. Now believers in Christ have the spiritual presence of God in us – the Holy Spirit. I sometimes long for a physical presence too. However, the “heart and hands of Christ” (as my church likes to say) IS here. As Ben and I have been abundantly served by our friends and family in many tangible ways, we feel the love of God.

Some people who are suffering feel physically abandoned by God, but we do not because the Body of Christ has been alert to our pain. I encourage everyone who has been obedient to God in this to continue with the other suffering people around you.


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