Looking at the headlines of newspapers and news sites around the world can challenge one’s belief in God. Why believe in a God who allows such loss and pain? Why trust a God who lets the innocent suffer? What good is God in the midst of death and poverty? Philip Yancey wrestles with these and other questions in his latest book, WHAT GOOD IS GOD? He puts on his journalist hat and travels around the world to some of the darkest situations and events in search of the goodness of God in life’s most difficult moments.
The book is divided into 10 parts, each focusing on a different situation, one in which Yancey was invited as a speaker --- but often on the contingency that he be allowed to research and interview people. He travels everywhere, from South Africa in a post-apartheid culture to China as the winds of change blow through the nation. In Cambridge, he reflects on the work and impact of C.S. Lewis, and in Green Lake, Wisconsin, he sits down with sex workers to discuss the sex industry. In each location, he provides a thorough background description of the situation, how he became involved, and his response, which takes the form of an edited presentation he delivered. For example, the book begins by examining the events leading up to the campus massacre at Virginia Tech and what Yancey witnessed as he interacted with students after the shooting. Then he shares his presentation, which includes wisdom and healing:
“Do not attempt healing alone. Rely on the people in this room, the staff of this church, other members of Christ’s body in your hometown. True healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community. Where is God when it hurts? Where God’s people are. Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and now on earth the Messiah takes form in the shape of the church. That’s what the body of Christ means.”
The book is littered with gems of insight and wisdom for anyone who has experienced pain, loss, or trauma. As a writer, Yancey is not afraid to look into the darkness in order to see the light. Even with faith being severely tested, the goodness of God can still be discovered. He doesn’t offer easy answers, but eternal truths of who God is and all He has done --- even when in the midst of a broken world.
While the layout and design of WHAT GOOD IS GOD? is different from Yancey’s previous books, fans will be encouraged and challenged by the writing. They also will resonate with the themes of hope and grace that Yancey has been writing about for many years. Highly recommended to readers of all ages and stages.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on November 13, 2011