The question that never goes away
Challenging the reader to reflect on a painful, hurting world, Philip Yancey is as readable as ever
The Question That Never Goes Away
by Philip Yancey
Reviewer: Martin Poole
On 15 December 2012 a lone crazed gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary school USA, killing 20 children and six staff before turning the weapon upon himself. This mindless tragedy which stunned America and the world tends to cast a shadow over all that Philip Yancey writes in his latest book.
Indeed, he is asked to visit the community only two weeks after the shootings and as a result is forced to clarify his thinking as he faces those grieving deeply and wrestling with unanswerable questions.
Yancey is like a moth constantly drawn to a source of light as he faces up to the subject of suffering and seeks to bring some illumination to the deepest and darkest experiences of human life. In addition to Sandy Hook, Yancey probes the gloom from other horrors such as tsunamis in Asia and Japan, the fatal shootings from Columbine, the Boston marathon, the war in the Balkans and of course 9/11.
He rebuts those who see such tragedies as occasions to “boycott God” and while acknowledging the profound mystery of suffering, gives the reader insights into the positives that can flow from it. He quotes Spurgeon: “Affliction is the best book in my library”,
and then the actor Michael J Fox, who wrote that “coming to terms with Parkinson's disease has turned out to be the best ten years of my life.”
In an aside Yancey informs us that Sandy Hook is situated in the area that gave birth to Scrabble. This seems very pertinent because Yancey’s ability as a wordsmith makes his book very readable as well as challenging the reader to reflect on a painful, hurting world.
If there is a disappointment with the book it is its shortness (150 pages), and while addressing more recent tragedies it is virtually an update of his earlier volume Where is God when it hurts?
If, however, you have never read this gifted author, The Question That Never Goes Away
is an excellent primer.
The Revd Martin Poole is a retired Baptist Minister (past churches Penarth, Godalming, Eastleigh)