Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Review: Where is God when it hurts?

Where is God when it hurts? by Philip Yancey
I found Philip Yancey’s exploration of pain and suffering to be sensitive and honest. His humility in writing made sure that I did not feel judged for any of my thoughts and feelings that I have had in my process of working through disappointment. He starts by explores the physiological benefits of pain which I found fascinating. He then grapples with pain from a spiritual point of view – is it from God? Here he examines some of the unhelpful myths and beliefs around suffering that can add more burdens to those who are grappling with loss. He then explores the ways we can respond to suffering. He delves into ways we can cope in the time of pain and ends by looking at the role of faith in the journey through disappointment and loss.

I liked how he drew on people’s stories and experiences so that the book is not just a theological document. However he does not shy away from exploring the bible and it’s perspective regarding suffering. I found Philip Yancey’s thoughts and teachings helpful in my own journey and would recommend it to someone who was grappling with suffering from a spiritual and Christian perspective.

Here are some passages that I am still reflecting on:

"Rabbi Harold Kushner cites an old Chinese tale about a woman overwhelmed by grief after the death of her son. When she goes to the holy man for advice, he tells her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The tale recounts how the woman goes from house to house, asking if the home has known sorrow. Each one has, of course, and the woman lingers to comfort her hosts until at last the act of ministering to others drives the sorrow from her life." (Page 193)

"A wise sufferer will not look inward, but outward. There is no more effective healer than a wounded healer, and in the process the wounded healer’s own scars may fade away." (Page 193)

How would the world be different if Jesus had come as a Superman figure immune to all pain? "What if He had not died, but merely ascended to heaven during his trial before Pilate? By not making himself exempt, but deliberately taking on the worst the world had to offer, He gives us the hope that God can likewise transform the suffering each of us must face. Because of His death and resurrection, we can confidently assume that no trial – illness, divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy, grief – extends beyond the range of His transforming power." (Page 231)

"I know well the helpless feeling of not knowing what I ought to pray, as I imagine every Christian sometimes does. (In the face of suffering…) What can we ask for? How can we pray? Romans 8 announces the good news that we need not figure out how to pray. We need only groan. As I read Paul’s words, an image comes to mind of a mother tuning in to her child’s wordless cry. I know mothers who, through years of experience, have learned to distinguish a cry fro food from a cry for attention, an earache cry from a stomach ache cry. To me the sounds are identical, but not to the mother, who instinctively discerns the meaning of the helpless child’s cry. The Spirit of God has resouces of sensitivity beyond those of even the wisest moth. Paul says that the Spirit lives inside us, detecting needs we cannot articulate and expressing them in a language that we cannot comprehend. When we don’t know what to pray, He fills in the blanks. Evidently, it is our very helplessness that God, too delights in. Our weakness gives opportunity for His strength." (Page 236)

To learn more about Philip Yancey and his books follow this link.

1 comment:

carina said...

Very good post. I am surely ordering this book as a birthday present to myself! Thanks Jacqui. And thank you for your offering of assistance. I will surely email you shortly. You are kind. Love to Matt.