Philip Yancey on the Problem of Pain

12 09 2009

In his book Finding God in Unexpected Places (which comes highly recommended, by the way), Philip Yancey talks about the aftermath of September 11.  People were asking a lot of hard questions, like “Where is God when it hurts?”  (which, incidentally, was the title of one of his earliest books, published in 1977).

The week of September 11, 2001, Yancey consulted with his publisher, Zondervan, and decided to release a special edition of Where is God When It Hurts?, with all proceeds going to a victims’ fund.  By the end of the week, they had started printing 500,000 copies.

Yancey wrote of the experience:

“As I talked to media people about the special edition of Where Is God When It Hurts?, inevitably the interviewer would turn the question back on me.  “Well, where is God at a time like this?”  Sometimes I countered some of the harmful things other Christian spokesmen had said about the attacks being God’s judgment on America, bringing guilt and confusion to a time that begged for comfort and grace.  I talked of Jesus’ response to tragedies, especially in Luke 13.  And then I would usually tell of a man who came up to me once and said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have time to read your book.  Can you just answer that question for me in a sentence or two?’

Taken aback, I thought a moment and said, “I guess the answer to that question is another question.  Where is the church is doing its job — binding wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry — I don’t think people will wonder so much where God is when it hurts.  They’ll know where God is: in the presence of God’s people on earth.”

(Finding God In Unexpected Places, pg. 72-73)

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