Selecting books to read is somewhat of an art. One approach is to stay current by reading works that are fresh off of the printing presses. Myself, I enjoy a book diet that emphasizes works that have stood the test of time. Usually that means books that more than a century old. But there are some gems that bridge the divide between the classics and the new.
Philip Yancey’s book, Where Is God When It Hurts? fits that billing. It was originally published in 1977 and later published in this anniversary edition in 1990. Books that are republished years after the initial offering might be worthy of your consideration.
One reason that this book is worth being read today is that Philip Yancey is a master writer. He is skilled in communicating through the written word.
The main reason to read this book is that the question Yancey addresses is still a question being asked by people today. It is not a theological treatise on the issue of suffering, but it is a Christian consideration.
Yancey begins his book by discussing the necessity of pain and suffering in life. He provides scientific evidence that we would be in trouble if our bodies were immune to pain. During this part he examines the example of lepers as those who suffer due to their bodies not feeling pain. He also presents case studies of people like Joni Eareckson Tada.
Building on the fact and the necessity of suffering, Yancey makes the case that Jesus is the primary evidence that God is not unfamiliar nor uncaring when we suffer. With Jesus’ ascension to heaven the church becomes the medium that God uses to minister to those who are hurting.
The final paragraphs from Yancey are excellent:
He has been there from the beginning, designing a pain system that, even in the midst of a fallen world, still bears the stamp of his genius and equips us for life on this planet.
He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward him.
With great restrain, he watches this rebellious planet live on, in mercy allowing the human project to continue in its self-guided way.
He lets us cry out, like Job, in loud fits of anger against him, blaming him for a world we spoiled.
He allies himself with the poor and suffering, founding a kingdom tilted in his favor. He stoops to conquer.
He promises supernatural help to nourish the spirit, even if our physical suffering goes unrelieved.
He has joined us. He has hurt and bled and cried and suffered. He has dignified for all time those who suffer, by sharing their pain.
He is with us now, ministering to us through his Spirit and through members of his body who are commissioned to bear us up and relieve our suffering for the sake of the head.
He is waiting, gathering the armies of good. One day he will unleash them, and the world will see one last terrifying moment of suffering before the full victory is ushered in. Then, God will create for us a new, incredible world. And pain will be no more.