For many Christians, Philip Yancey needs no introduction. He’s written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books, 4 of which sold more than a million copies. From grace to prayer to the real Jesus, he’s always tackling the burning spiritual questions. With his new book, “The Question that Never Goes Away,” Yancey tackles how to answer a universal question: “Where is God when we suffer?” Here, I discuss with the bestselling author how he answers this question and what he’s learned about finding God in tragedy.
RNS: You’ve traveled the world visiting places devastated by war and disasters, natural and manmade. What have you learned from journeying with those who suffer?
PY: I’ve learned that words don’t matter nearly as much as personal presence and practical help. We all struggle with the “Why?” questions surrounding the problem of pain and suffering, but a person going through it is usually not investigating philosophical questions; they’re just trying to survive and heal.
The calming effect of community and personal presence is scientifically verifiable. I have a friend who participated with a medical student in a pain experiment. They found that a person with feet in a bucket of ice can stand the pain much longer if a friend is with them holding their hand. Every study shows that people recovering from surgery heal faster if they’re engaged with a supportive community. It makes sense: a caring community can help relieve stress, fear, anxiety, the very things that keep us from healing well.
RNS: As you’ve moved among those whose lives have been ripped apart by conflict, how have you seen light penetrate the deepest darknesses people endure?