Bob Hoffman's Reviews > Where Is God When It Hurts?

Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey
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Mar 25, 2010

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Read in March, 2010

Where is God When It Hurts?—This is one of those questions of the ages and Yancey approaches it with an awareness of how profoundly difficult the subject matter is. He also acknowledges that a great deal of damage has been done by persons who have given inappropriate advice to individuals who are suffering.

Yancey has written a virtual encyclopedia on the subject, but perhaps his biggest contribution is to approach the subject as a student. In order to write this book, the author spent more than a year as part of a ‘Make Today Count’ support group for individuals with terminal illnesses. He visited individuals who had suffered complete paralysis, individuals whose very daily existence if mostly defined by pain from the moment they wake in the morning till the moment they go to sleep. And he studied the writings of a host of historical figures who had suffered, including John Donne, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, and Corrie Ten Boom.

Through his time spent with Dr. Paul Brand, a long-time physician to patients with Leprosy, Yancey learned how pain could be seen as a gift from God, because individuals with Leprosy and Diabetes, for instance, often lose their ability to sense pain in the extremities and thus suffer more tissue damage when they do not notice injuries.

And during his time listening to the words of individuals who suffer chronic pain—the other type of pain that Dr. Brand says rages out of control and cannot be switched off—Yancey began to understand that he didn’t know how to comfort people who suffer. But that, too, was an important lesson, because perhaps the most important thing that those who suffer need is the presence in their lives of people who care, whether they know what to say or not. Presence may be far more important that words.

Fear, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, and loss of meaning can intensify pain and suffering—and these emotions are problematic with almost all individuals who suffer. But the steady, loving presence of friends and family members during suffering—whether we have words to say or not—is perhaps the greatest gift that we can give.

In Old Testament times, men like Job and Jeremiah used to complain to God over their pain and suffering, even accusing God of not having ears to listen to their prayers and petitions.

But, Yancey reminds us, when Jesus Christ came to earth, God took on ears—human ears—and because Jesus walked among us, because he suffered and died, God is truly with us when we hurt.


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