Yancey Does It Again
This morning I finished this short and compelling book on suffering and God's part. Philip Yancey approaches every assignment with a sufficient degree of everyman's skepticism.
Here he looks in 2013 at three very different recent catastrophes - the tsunami in Japan, the ravaging 4 year war-siege of Sarajevo and the senseless shooting of primary grade children in a Connecticut school. There are numerous personal testimonies and viewpoints.
Did God allow these horrors? Where was He when people's lives were ripped apart? Could His Love bear to stand aside? Is the planet broken and chaotic? Is humanity irrevocably corrupted? Can He be relied upon to protect or rescue? Or does He find ways to redeem every pain and loss eventually? Or does He bring out unanticipated compassionate response in those who are at hand.
Stories of courage and clinging hope abound in the book, as well as helpful quotes from the likes of C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Donne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, E. Stanley Jones, Chaim Potok and Albert Camus.
He also explores a list of devastating under-prayed Christian responses to the overwhelmed and grieving. Things like "This makes you stronger; God called the loved one early; More faith needed to be exercised; God was clearly judging sinful practices of the community."
Does Yancey see a way through? Not entirely. He starts by assuring us that Divinity entered into the fullness of the human sphere and shared in exposure to wickedness and suffering and death. It is interesting that the Connecticut shootings occurred in the Christmas month. Jesus arrived in the wickedness of Herodian and Roman complicity. At Easter a Father Who is all Love watched the humiliation and murder of His only begotten Son. Feel the rage and pain of many of the Psalms of the Shepherd-King. God is here. God is Love. God empathizes. Undoubtedly the planet and humanity reel from the polluting consequences of the Fall and that very necessary hazard known as free will.
The Word of God pictures an ultimate redemption of all suffering and loss, and a family gathering (Revelation chapters 19 through 22). It also affirms the present travail of the Creation awaiting the fullness of glory to be revealed in the faith brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ (Romans 8).
Look up and ahead and away...and laugh. (But I may have to sit quietly and respectfully alongside your suffering for a considerable period before uttering anything that audacious. Time and touch also work toward special peace and recovery.)