“Faith like Job’s cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken”
– (Page 232, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey)
I read Philip Yancey’s book a few years ago but breezed through because I was a new Christian and couldn’t really make sense of the struggle he spoke of. Life was mostly good to me and I didn’t really have to question God about anything. Between then and now, I’ve had my own faith crisis, bouts of depression and the realisation that life is not always coffee in the morning with my favorite songs playing. I figured it would be a great time to re-read Yancey’s book.
Yancey bravely articulates the knotty issues of faith and poses the questions Christians think but seldom ask aloud.
Is God unfair?
Is He silent?
Is He hidden?
In the book he shares personal experiences he has had, experiences people in his life have had about God and explores faith stories and faith crises in the Bible. Yancey begins his book with the assumption that everyone reading it either firmly believes in the existence of God (though may have different experiences of what this God is like) or is skeptic about the person of God. He does not make any attempt to argue the existence of God to atheists. If he tried to, the book would definitely have been longer.
True atheists do not, I presume, feel disappointed in God. They expect nothing and receive nothing. But those who commit their lives to God, no matter what, instinctively expect something in return. Are those expectations wrong? (Page 41)
In this book, Yancey tries to see things from God’s perspective, reading through the entire Bible, exploring God’s relationship with Adam, down to the Israelites, down to the early church in the New Testament. He explores the ways the very present God in the early books of the Bible, showed Himself less and less until Jesus came on the scene after which He appeared to hide behind the curtains completely. He explores God’s relationship with some people in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 and how it was through moments of trials and deep life disappointments, moments when their faith came under fire they held on fiercely to the idea that God was still good, and still with them.
This book was unique to me because unlike other books that attempt to explain the problem of pain and faith, Yancey did not use the common response to life’s unfairness Christians use such as: Don’t complain so loudly! You will forfeit this opportunity to demonstrate your faithfulness to non-believers” or “Someone is always worse off than you. Give thanks despite your circumstances”. He doesn’t tiptoe around life unfairness or the senselessness of pain especially to good people. What he argues is we tend to equate life’s unfairness to mean God is unfair. One story that deeply affected me was that of his friend Douglas who he calls ‘a modern Job’.
When asked if he felt disappointed in God he said,
“I have learned to see beyond the physical reality in this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think. “Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life – by expecting constant good health, for example – then I set myself up for a crashing disappointment’ (page 204)
Was Yancey successful in making a case for God? I’m not sure the book was ever about arguing God’s case. It’s a book about personal experiences: the author’s, people in the Bible’s, that of other people he mentioned in his book. In the end, the reader can safely draw the conclusion: a personal interaction with this God is the only case that can be made for Him. One faith-defining experience for Yancey, as seen in the book, was another series of unanswered questions for someone he wrote about in the book.
Would I recommend this book to someone else? Definitely. Would we have the same experiences reading it? Probably not.
My recommendations for this month are:
- So you’ve been publicly shamed – Jon Ronson (about the art of public shaming)
- Say you’re one of them – Uwem Akpan (because, the title)
- A bit of difference – Sefi Atta (because people say Sefi is good stuff)
Dont forget you only have to read one book
What book did you read?
Evaluate and critique the book
Wrap up with the strengths and weaknesses and mention if you would recommend the book to other people
Give a numerical score/rating.
Remember, I will be picking out the best two reviews to receive prizes from Konga.com.