Where Is God When It Hurts?

Where Is God When It Hurts?

by Philip Yancey


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Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

If there is a loving God, then why is it that … ? You’ve heard that question, perhaps asked it yourself. No matter how you complete it, at its root lies the issue of pain. Does God order our suffering? Does he decree an abusive childhood, orchestrate a jet crash, steer a tornado through a community? Or did he simply wind up the world’s mainspring and now is watching from a distance? In this Gold Medallion Award–winning book, Philip Yancey reveals a God who is neither capricious nor unconcerned. Using examples from the Bible and from his own experiences, Yancey looks at pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual—and helps us understand why we suffer. Where Is God When It Hurts? will speak to those for whom life sometimes just doesn’t make sense. And it will help equip anyone who wants to reach out to someone in pain but just doesn’t know what to say.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310245728
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 02/28/2002
Edition description: Anniversary
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 183,416
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado. Learn more at philipyancey.com

Read an Excerpt

A Problem That Won't Go Away Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting sym-toms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.
C. S. LEWIS A Grief Observed I FEEL HELPLESS AROUND people in great pain. Helpless, and also guilty. I stand beside them, watching facial features contort and listening to the sighs and moans, deeply aware of the huge gulf between us. I cannot penetrate their suffering, I can only watch. Whatever I attempt to say seems weak and stiff, as if I'd memorized the lines for a school play.
One day I received a frantic plea for help from my close friends John and Claudia Claxton. Newlyweds in their early twenties, they were just beginning life together in the Midwest. I had watched in amazement as the experience of romantic love utterly transformed John Claxton. Two years of engagement to Claudia had melted his cynicism and softened his hard edges. He became an optimist, and now his letters to me were usually bubbly with enthusiasm about his young marriage.
But one letter from John alarmed me as soon as I opened it. Errors and scratches marred his usually neat handwriting. He explained, 'Excuse my writing . . . I guess it shows how I'm fumbling for words. I don't know what to say.' The Claxtons' young marriage had run into a roadblock far bigger than both of them. Claudia had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the lymph glands, and was given only a fifty percent chance to live.
Within a week surgeons had cut her from armpit to belly, removing every visible trace of the disease. She was left stunned and weak, lying in a hospital bed.
At the time, ironically, John was working as a chaplain's assistant in a local hospital. His compassion for other patients dipped dangerously. 'In some ways,' he told me, 'I could understand better what other patients were undergoing. But I didn't care any more. I only cared about Claudia. I wanted to yell at them, 'Stop that sniveling, you idiots! You think you've got problems—my wife may be dying right now!''
Though both John and Claudia were strong Christians, an unexpected anger against God surged up—anger against a beloved partner who had betrayed them. 'God, why us?' they cried. 'Have you teasingly doled out one happy year of marriage to set us up for this?' Cobalt treatments took their toll on Claudia's body. Beauty fled her almost overnight. She felt and looked weary, her skin darkened, her hair fell out. Her throat was raw, and she regurgitated nearly everything she ate. Doctors had to suspend treatment for a time when her swollen throat could no longer make swallowing motions.
When the radiation treatments resumed, she was periodically laid out flat on a table, naked. She could do nothing but lie still and listen to the whir and click of the machinery as it bombarded her with invisible particles, each dose aging her body by months. As she lay in that chill steel room, Claudia would think about God and about her suffering.
Claudia's Visitors Claudia had hoped that Christian visitors would comfort her by bringing some perspective on what she was going through. But their voices proved confusing, not consoling. A deacon from her church solemnly advised her to reflect on what God was trying to teach her. 'Surely something in your life must displease God,' he said. 'Somewhere, you must have stepped out of his will. These things don't just happen. God uses circumstances to warn us, and to punish us. What is he telling you?'
A few days later Claudia was surprised to see a woman from church whom she barely knew. Evidently, this plump, scatterbrained widow had adopted the role of professional cheerleader to the sick. She brought flowers, sang hymns, and stayed long enough to read some happy psalms about brooks running and mountains clapping their hands. Whenever Claudia tried to talk about her illness or prognosis, the woman quickly changed the subject, trying to combat the suffering with cheer and goodwill. But she only visited once, and after a while the flowers faded, the hymns seemed dissonant, and Claudia was left to face a new day of pain.
Another woman dropped by, a faithful follower of television faith healers. Exuding confidence, she assured Claudia that healing was her only escape. When Claudia told her about the deacon's advice, this woman nearly exploded. 'Sickness is never God's will!' she exclaimed. 'Haven't you read the Bible? The Devil stalks us like a roaring lion, but God will deliver you if you can muster up enough faith to believe you'll be healed. Remember, Claudia, faith can move mountains, and that includes Hodgkin's disease. Simply name your promise, in faith, and then claim the victory.'
The next few mornings, as Claudia lay in the sterile cobalt treatment room, she tried to 'muster up' faith. She wondered if she even understood the procedure. She did not question God's supernatural power, but how to go about convincing God of her sincerity? Faith wasn't like a muscle that could be enlarged through rehabilitation exercises. It was slippery, intangible, impossible to grasp. The whole notion of mustering up faith seemed awfully exhausting, and she could never decide what it really meant.

Table of Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
1. A Problem That Won’t Go Away . . . . . . . . . 15
Why Is There Such a Thing as Pain?
2. The Gift Nobody Wants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
3. Painless Hell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
4. Agony and Ecstasy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Is Pain a Message from God?
5. The Groaning Planet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
6. What Is God Trying to Tell Us? . . . . . . . . . . 75
7. Why Are We Here? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
8. Arms Too Short to Box with God . . . . . . . 103
How People Respond to Suffering
9. After the Fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
10. On My Feet Dancing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
11. Other Witnesses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143
12. Extreme Cases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
How Can We Cope with Pain?
13. Frontiers of Recovery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
14. Fear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
15. Helplessness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
16. Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
17. Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
How Does Faith Help?
18. Seeing for Himself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
19. The Rest of the Body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239
20. A Whole New World Outside . . . . . . . . . . 249
Discussion Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263
Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

'I know firsthand that pain and paralysis sometimes seem to push away the presence of God. To ask 'Where Is God When It Hurts?' is honest, reasonable even. And thank the Lord, Philip puts our questions into perspective, helping us find out exactly where God really is when we hurt.' -- Joni Eareckson Tada

'I started to read it thinking I was going to read a pleasant little easy-to-read book on the subject of pain; I finished feeling as if I had read a classic. It probes aspects of pain that C. S. Lewis never touches and draws upon the lives of suffering saints from John Donne to Joni Eareckson Tada. But I was most impressed with Philip's honesty and willingness to admit the inadequacy of words to unravel problems that go back to the patriarch Job.' -- William J. Petersen

'I've read everything I can get my hands on about the problems of pain and evil, and this book is the clearest, most practical thing I've read.' -- Keith Miller

'If I expected to find inside a shallow theoretical treatise unworthy of such a profound question, that's not what I found...by the time you get to the end of these chapters your heart is crying out, 'Thank you, God, for pain!'' -- Paul Harvey

'One of the most helpful treatments of the problem of evil that I've ever read...on a level that really speaks to people. If I were looking around for something to give individuals who are going through travail or difficulty, this is the book I'd recommend.' -- Dr. Vernon Grounds

'What a book. A masterpiece. Complete, moving without waxing sentimental. Not the kind of book you'd expect to be unable to put down, but just that.' -- Jerry Jenkins

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Where Is God When It Hurts 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
odd-todd More than 1 year ago
Perhaps reading this book will inform you about Hansen's Disease, which, in turn, will help you as a future contestant on Jeopardy. Much more likely, though, you will grow as a person and as a people-helper from reading "Where Is God When It Hurts?" If you've never asked this question, in one form or another, you must be very young or very resigned (even fatalistic) or have lived a very charmed life and/or don't much care about others who have been less fortunate. Fact of the matter is, most of us--maybe momentarilty, perhaps persistently--have encountered the tough question concerning the source(s) of human suffering. In fact, whether or not you tend to be spiritual, chances are you've cried out, "Why me, Lord!?!" Whereas "Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People" and other such books I've read seem simplistic, even somewhat insulting to one's intelligence, this book is thought-provoking and unpredictable, plus enlightening and encouraging. Though decidedly non-fiction, "Where Is God When It Hurts" takes a novel approach toward the apparent problems of pain and sorrow. Well, it's unique in terms of most literature, yet (as admitted by the author) essentially straight from the scriptures! (Speaking of which, while this may be the best book i ever bought, i would assign 5 stars to only The Holy Bible.) Still, I'm convinced that even those who don't embrace the Bible would benefit from reading it, while those who have studied scripture would see its value, as well. Without giving away its conclusions, i will suggest that it serves to strenthen the reader with a sound structure and perspective for understanding--or, at least, enduring--times of testing, trials, and tribulations. Though very helpful if you're the one hurting, it's especially useful as a tool to come alongside others who are suffering and sorrowful. And it's not too philosophichal to be practical: It's full of real life examples, even a testimonial that has impacted me on a deep level, and in an enduring way. If you read this book, it is highly likely that when faced with adversity, you will have a framework with which to work, and a foundation upon which to stand, even if your quality of life, standard of living, or your very life is in jeopardy...and all in the form of a question!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
On october 13th 2012 my father died i was only 16 at the time and he was the closest person to me in my family. Ever since he died ive been looking for signs that he was around. Then i saw this book. He always taked to me about god because for the longest time he shut him out. Then whenever he found out he was dying he figured he didnt want to spend eternity in hell. After he died i shut out god too, but now maybe is the time to let him back in.
Mightymema More than 1 year ago
Really makes you think. Lots of answers to everyday questions. Enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this is a good book if u have been through alot. Like there are lots of bad thinggs in my life ad this tells me tha gid has pl for me. So now i kow that i dont have to stress no more. God will alwaysbthere to help you.
Overcommer More than 1 year ago
Not to the point, very laborious to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After the Bible, this is my favorite book!! of all times..ITS wonderful and while reading it i cried and understood Jesus place in our lives..i would recommend it if you are going through a difficult pain in your life and can not get rid of it!!!!!!
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Very helpful
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