Everyone faces challenges in life. Most them aren’t huge, and we take them in our stride. But others determine the course of your life for better or worse. Generally it’s the survivors who tell their stories. Men like Nick Vujicic, whose story is told in Life without Limits. And of course there are the Christian motivational books, many of which simply call for more faith, deeper repentance or greater worship to overcome our barriers.
But what about the thousands, perhaps millions, who struggle day in day out with illness, loss, despair and isolation? Where is God in their situations? What should they think when all the prayers seem to bring no change to their situation? Are they less Godly, less deserving? What should we expect from God when our world falls apart?
Readers of Philip Yancy’s books will be familiar with his struggle to unravel some of the conflict between his fundamentalist background and the reality of life and faith. Most seem to come to some sort of conclusion. But Yancey admits to experiencing an unresolved tension whilst writing Seeing in the Dark. Woven through the exploration of God’s word on suffering is the story of Richard, a Wheaton college graduate who abandoned his faith, even whilst writing a book about the trials of Job.
As he takes us step by step through a review of the trials of God’s people, Yancey connects Scripture with the struggles of contemporary believers in the face of intense suffering.
Combining lessons learned during an extended study retreat with real testimonies – positive and negative – Yancey seeks to discover what we can and should expect from God during the dark times in our lives. If, like me, you seek a formula for everything, you may be disappointed in the outcome. For unlike many other books on this subject, Yancey has no neat answer, no set prayers or exercises to guarantee healing, no faith boosting scriptures to lift your heart above all the pain. Instead he notes that most of the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 continued to trust God without receiving the dramatic revelation that finally came to Job.
The question for me, as the reader, is whether I try to control God by placing demands on his behaviour, or choose to trust him because he is God. Read the book, then choose for yourself.
(Seeing in the Dark, Marshall Pickering (1 Jun 1989), ISBN-10: 0551018682, currently out of print)
[Edited 25/11/2014 for spelling and grammar errors]