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The Question that Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey

“Why are you shocked and upset? What else should we expect from an impersonal universe of random indifference?”

Suffering is a problem. Whether you are an atheist, extreme fundamentalist or somewhere in between, there is a basic need to answer the question of suffering. Why does it happen? What should we do when it happens? Every religion will give you a different response, even in Christianity there is no one accepted response to suffering. Scripture is filled with suffering and people inadequate responses.

I have read many books on pain and suffering. C.S. Lewis is probably the best thinker and author to approach the subject, but Philip Yancey is a very close second place. Yancey has written several classics on suffering including Where is God When it Hurts? and Disappointment with God. This newer title The Question that Never Goes Away continues the conversation.

Over the past decades, we have experienced some of the biggest atrocities history has ever seen. Tsunamis have destroyed civilizations. Terrorists have slaughtered thousands and terrified the world. Gunmen have made our schools combat zones. In these moments, we have looked around and simply yet forcefully asked, “Why?”

Unlike man theologians, Yancey does not try to answer the question. It is foolish to do so. Some “Christian” personalities have blamed these catastrophes on our unfaithfulness or the country’s sinfulness. This is the same method fabricated by Job’s friends during his experience. It is downright foolish to try to make sense of it all.

So what is God’s response to suffering? Fortunately we have a God that has responded. How did Jesus respond to suffering? He definitely did not dole out feel-good philosophies or convenient theology, instead he healed people and suffered alongside them with compassion. Yancey adds, “No other religion has this model of God identifying so deeply and compassionately with humanity.” Usually, the people who observe suffering reject God, but the people who experience suffering need God.

This is a short yet difficult book to read. Yancey does not candy-coat the topic, he fills the book with devastating stories of sufferings, but it is a good reminder that there is a problem but much bigger solution. Once you flip the question around, things make a little more sense, “Where is no-God when it hurts?”

I definitely recommend this book especially after you have read Yancey’s previous works mentioned.