The Question That Never Goes Away
Philip Yancey’s very first book, WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS?, was written when he was only 27. Since that time, he has grappled with countless other timeless life and faith conundrums that send individuals of all faith walks desperate to find answers. Yancey’s newest book, THE QUESTION THAT NEVER GOES AWAY, grapples once again with the same issues he sought to understand and write about so many years ago. Why does suffering exist?
Yancey is known for his straightforward treatment of biblical truth that is equally complimented by his generous spirit of compassion and care for those who suffer. He tells many heartrending stories throughout this text that readers will be all too familiar with: Newtown after the school massacre; war-torn Bosnia; Japan after the tsunami; Virginia Tech after the shootings; and Mumbai after the terrorist attacks. In each retelling, Yancey not only offers readers the harsh realities of each horrendous event, but also helps unpack the feelings and emotions that the victims experienced during and after each one. He also ties in biblical principles, stories and promises of God found in Scripture, and how people attempt to square up these promises from God for protection when it was clear they weren’t spared any of the atrocities.
"What Yancey does so well is to lead readers through a thoughtful examination of Scripture where Christians can indeed turn their sorrows and pain over to Him who has experienced it all Himself as a man on earth."
Yancey’s hope and intent is to assist Christ followers in facing the hardships of our broken world without forfeiting their confidence in God and forsaking their faith. True, he is tackling a most difficult feat in the attempt. One of the most compelling statements that Yancey declares is that it doesn’t help anyone to try and quantify suffering. “All suffering is suffering. There are simply individual people who hurt and who wonder why God permits it.” Yet as Yancey reminds careful readers of the Bible’s account of Job and all his suffering, “we have no more definitive answer than the biblical patriarch Job got.” In other words, God asked Job to trust Him. God asks us to trust Him with our suffering.
This so timely text is divided into five parts: “Where is God?,” “I Want to Know Why!” “When God Overslept,” “Healing Evil” and “Three Extreme Tests.” In each section, Yancey intersperses his own life stories where he has suffered along with those of people he knows. He also highlights in thorough fashion the current-day catastrophes for which so many are far too familiar with. Opening this book with the devastating account of his own father’s untimely death from polio when he was just one year old, Yancey deeply understands how confusing it is to grow up with such immense and overshadowing unanswered prayers as were given on behalf of his father, who had been preparing to go to Africa as a missionary.
Yancey gets it. There are no simple answers to be found in the Bible regarding the suffering every person experiences. What Yancey does so well is to lead readers through a thoughtful examination of Scripture where Christians can indeed turn their sorrows and pain over to Him who has experienced it all Himself as a man on earth. This text won’t provide zippy relief to such a heavy-weighted question of Why? But it will offer ample doses of hope for those who hurt.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on January 23, 2014