Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where is God When it Hurts?

Yesterday I began an older book by Philip Yancey, called Where is God When It Hurts? I am drawn more and more to the issue of human suffering, in part because of the wrong theology that has been promoted on the subject -- in which the blame is laid at GOD's feet.

I love what Yancey writes in the preface:

Another thing amazes me. Books on the problem of pain divide neatly into two groupings. The older ones, by people like Aquinas, Bunyan, Donne, Luther, Calvin and Augustine, ungrudgingly accept pain and suffering as God's useful agents. These authors do not question God's actions. They merely try to "justify the ways of God to man." The authors wrote with confidence, as if the sheer force of their reasoning could calm emotional responses to suffering.

Modern books on pain make a sharp contrast. Their authors assume that the amount of evil and suffering in the world cannot be matched with the traditional view of a good and loving God. God is thus bumped from a "friend of the court" position to the box reserved for the defendant. "How can you possibly justify yourself, God?" these angry moderns seem to say. Many of them adjust their notion of God, either by redefining his love or by questioning his power to control evil.

When you read the two categories of books side by side, the change in tone is quite striking. It's as if we in modern times think we have a corner on the suffering market. Do we forget that Luther and Calvin lived in a world without ether and penicillin, when life expectancy averaged thirty years, and that Bunyan and Donne wrote their greatest works, respectively, in a jail and a plague quarantine room? Ironically, the modern authors -- who live in princely comfort, toil in a climate-controlled office, and hoard elixirs in their medicine cabinets -- are the ones smoldering with rage.

I look forward to spending a lot of time with Yancey over the next couple of weeks.


Jeff said...

"My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways" declares the Lord.

I may not have that exactly word for word but the point is what is said in your blog - we seek comfort, that is our way and we sometimes do not understand why God doesn't follow our way of doing things.

For me, it is easier to find God in suffering and I'm pretty sure I find Satan quicker in comfort. Satan wants me to rest in my luxury and God wants me to rest in Him.

I need to get a copy of this book.

randy said...

Someone gave me Yancy's book and I read it shortly after Krystal was killed. It didn't make much impression but I was pretty much in a zombied out state at the time - I probably should read it again. I read Lightfoot's "Jesus Christ Today" and Rubel Shelly's "The Names of Jesus" shortly thereafter both of which helped me get thru my sorrow. Of course everyone grieves differenly so someone else's mileage may vary.