23/06/2008

Where is God when it hurts? (by Philip Yancey)

I first came across Philip Yancey's writing about twelve years ago, when a good friend recommended (and lent me) one of his books. I was very impressed, and since then have gradually bought and read just about all Yancey's books.

Since it was about eleven years since I read 'Where is God when it hurts?' I thought it was about time to re-read it, and have done so over the past week or so.

It's an encouraging and very readable book, looking afresh at the longstanding Christian problem of pain. Why did God create us to feel pain? Is pain ever - or always - due to sin? Does pain always have negative effects? What can we say to someone suffering chronic pain?

Yancey does not give any pat answers. He explores the problems in his usual forthright style, admitting that some 'Christian' responses can often do more harm than good. There are no simple reasons for some types of pain, although when he meets people suffering in various ways, he finds different reactions, some of which help the person grow spiritually and emotionally (though not all).

In the early part of the book Yancey looks at the basic reasons why it's important that our nervous system does feel pain, in order to protect us. He explains how people with leprosy feel no pain at all, and thus often get infected sores or mutilated fingers, because there is no warning when they are twisted, or have nails sticking in them.

When I first read this book eleven years ago, I had not really come across this concept. I've now read about it several times in others of Yancey's books, particularly those written with Dr Paul Brand, one of the pioneers of leprosy research and action.

All in all, a very readable book that I found encouraging. Written from a Christian perspective, but anyone wondering how Christians answer these difficult questions might also find it interesting. Recommended.

(Note that many books of this ilk have 'study guides' or 'participant guides' to go along with them, and sometimes they have the same title. It's worth double-checking what you are buying, either in a shop or online). 

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews 23rd June 2008

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