I just finished Philip Yancey’s latest book, The Question That Never Goes Away when three current events, on top of how our elected reps [are reported to] discharge their duties, burst through any semblance of calm:
· An airplane vanished – and with it 239 souls.
· An explosion in NYC, and two buildings cave in.
· Russian troops go into Ukraine.
Yep – I can feel my breathing go shallow, and sleeping this week has not been deep or restful. (You Are Having a Panic Attack) “Where was God when these bad things happen?” That’s the question that never ever goes away. It’s like spiritual eczema – an invisible itch for which there is no effective scratch. I don’t know if I am looking for answers to keep myself sane, or people I love, safe. As if I even could!
So, I went back and looked at all the portions of the book I underlined and I got a bit of balm, that I pass along – sanity pills and spiritual Wheaties – if you will, a don’t and a do:
· Be real reluctant to offer an opinion: Christians often cause more suffering when they try to comfort the hurting. “Christians made it worse by offering contradictory and confusing counsel.” Those who were hurting said they heard explanations of their afflictions varying from God punishing them, to His especially choosing them for to demonstrate faith, to pinning the pain on God’s enemy, Satan (The Question That Never Goes Away, page 9.)
· Be useful: Contrary to nature’s rule of “survival of the fittest,” we humans measure civilization by how we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering. So, we must look to the helpers. (The Question, page 33) And be willing to be one. Yancey then reminds those who want answers to unavoidable suffering to consider what Viktor Frankl said: “Despair is suffering without meaning, everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
The Christian hope is that of a radical intervention; one day “the creation itself will be liberated” – in a sort of cosmic rebirth. Until then, no answer to suffering will satisfy, even it we had the capacity to understand it. Faith that an infinite, but personal God rules, Mr. Yancey concludes means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse. (Yancey, page 29.) He ended his consideration of the question that never goes away by quoting Dietrich Bonheoffer, shortly before his execution:
I believe that God can and will generate good out of everything, even the worst evil. For, that, He needs people who allow that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good . . . I believe that God is not a timeless fate, but that He waits for and responds to honest prayers and responsible action. (The Question, Page 113.)