Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: Where is God When it Hurts?

Where Is God When It Hurts? Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I believe this book should be an absolute must-read for anyone who professes the Christian faith.

A sentence like that usually rings hollow to me, but honestly, there is nothing hollow about this book. I wish I could physically take the words from the pages and permanently implant them in my brain because there is so much truth to them.

The main point of the book is about suffering and pain and it attempts to address some of the common questions about the subject - why is there suffering, how do you deal with suffering people, what are the ramifications of suffering, how do we do even more damage to suffering people?

Yancey begins his book by explaining the benefits of physical pain by taking us on a journey through the lives of lepers who, because of their disease, no longer feel any pain - and the damage that occurs to them because they can't feel pain. From there the book delves into where is God in suffering, examples of suffering people, and then flourishes into an explanation of how God has suffered, the hope that we have in spite of our suffering, how we can use suffering to transform our lives, and why Christianity - of all the world religions - is particularly equipped to handle suffering.

Yancey limits his tome to just dealing with people in physical pain and suffering. He mentions mental anguish only in how it relates to the physical pain of people and how it causes them to question a loving God, and not as a subject in and of itself, but the lessons and advice that he draws from dealing with people in physical pain can certainly be brought to those that deal with emotional and mental pain and suffering.

What I loved most about this book is the reminder to Christians of the hope inherent in the resurrection that allows us to cope with suffering. That death is Not the end, and death doesn't need to be "accepted" - death is painful and hurts, but because of Jesus, it has been overcome, and because of Jesus we get to share in that victory. I also loved how Yancey reminds us that for a moment in time, God put on flesh in the person of Jesus and came to this earth, and suffered with us. Every time that Jesus encountered a suffering person, He not only healed them, but He also transformed them. And now we have the Holy Spirit, God within us, who hears our suffering groans and brings them to the feet of the Father and Son.

The other thing that I loved about this book is how it gives advice on how to help suffering people. You cannot go through life without encountering suffering people, and Christians, in particular, are called to be the body of Christ to these individuals. But how do we, imperfect people with even more imperfect words, help the suffering? It is a hard question that Yancey addresses with particular insight and I feel better equipped for it.

My only wish is that I had read this book a long time ago, for I've seen, lived with, and tried to walk through suffering with a lot of people. I just hope that going forward I will be able to overcome my own revulsion to pain and suffering and walk alongside those broken hearts and bodies, offering the real and true hope of Christ to those I have yet to encounter.

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