Shortly before Christmas in 2012, a man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and began shooting at terrified seven-year old kindergarteners and school staff. Twenty-six people died, along with the gunman and his mother. A few days later author Philip Yancey was invited to speak at a community-wide memorial service. Yancey’s earlier book Where is God When it Hurts, had sold 1.5 million copies, and early this month he published a follow-up, The Question That Never Goes Away: Why. This is a short, reflective book that draws on the author’s experiences and interviews with people in Newtown, Sarajevo Japan (where many were swept out to sea after the 2004 tsunami), Boston following the marathon killings, Virginia Tech after the shootings there, Columbine, and parts of the southern US devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Why does a good and loving God permit this? Why does the Bible never answer this question? Why does he quietly stand aside while agnostics and other critics mock God and make fun of believers? Yancey struggles with questions like these and describes life changing experiences in his own life where he suffered and cried out to a silent God for answers. Can any topic be closer to the work of counselors, religious leaders, and others who help people deal with the why questions? If you are a people helper (we all are, Galatians 6: 2-3) you might want to read Yancey’s new book.
Don’t expect deep philosophical or theological arguments and reasoned conclusions. Philip Yancey is a superb story-teller and sobering commentator. Here are some of his observations:
- God never promises to protect us from calamities or tragedies.
- Well-intentioned cliché comments do not help in crises. Just show up and say nothing rather than “This will all turn out for good,” or “God just wants your loved one to be with him!”
- People heal faster and better when they are connected with caring communities.
- Pain, grief and why? questions never go away but how we respond can be healing. It is understandable to grieve about the loss of a future but never forget what we enjoyed for a while in the past.
Yancey’s book left me sobered and thinking more about God. Maybe that’s what the author intended. Please comment, especially if you’ve read Philip Yancey’s new book.