Forgiving God Excerpt

This is how I ask the question of suffering now. I used to ask about theories, about how God’s goodness could square with God’s love, how different properties of God made sense in light of suffering. I used to read books about suffering and cry and wonder, in a safely academic way, how these stories make sense if God really loves us and really has the power to change the stories at any moment, to intervene in nature, to alter what looks to us inevitable.

It might seem like there is not a lot of explanation to be found. After all, hasn’t God said in Scripture that his ways are not ours, his thoughts not ours, that so much higher are his ways and thoughts? Who are we—worms, dust, ashes—to ask God for an explanation?

Perhaps it seems that God’s providence and provision are enough, that the words God is King concludes with a full stop. I’m glad if it is, for I think in the end, God is King will be the refrain. For at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.

And while I did get out on the water to pray for healing, and it didn’t come, and I did pray for an easier way of breathing, and Jack’s tracheostomy has meant both safety and danger—this question of suffering sits between me and God. I am still looking for a way to think and believe and talk about Jesus and the long-deserted streets of Waco with an empty oxygen tank. I think others might be too. I’d like to ask us together in the ragged band of lovers to imagine why. To sit ourselves down in the stories. Stories of suffering, heart’s desire unfurled before God, desires for beautiful, good things—desires for children, for marriage, for meaningful work, for the chance to write a book, for a trip to Paris, for good health and safety, for some project we love to work out and succeed. These desires, I can’t call them bad or sinful. I think they are desires after the heart of the Kingdom. To me, they are pearls of great value, things worth having and doing.

And sometimes they fail. The children do not come; the beloved dies; there is no marriage or a marriage falls apart. Jobs are lost or never found, books are rejected, there is no money for Paris, and there is sickness and danger. These dreams and longings, they collapse.

But God loves us. And God loves these good things we wanted and prayed about. God desires that our heart’s desires be met.

And I don’t think that means God aims to strip away from us anything but him, because Jesus is in the good things we were asking for. The joy and love of Jesus exists in the things we longed for.

But God is all-powerful and all-knowing, capable of anything, immediate or mediate. God can conquer cancer and joblessness and infertility. God can undo and rewrite and pull through and out of nowhere make all things be that can be so made.

But God is all-good, loving toward his children, desiring that none suffer, desiring that all be saved and not only saved but set free rejoicing and alive, most fully. “I am come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus says in the Gospel of John.

These things—God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect love—these things are what make suffering obscure to us. This is the veil cast between us and the agony of our lives, the veil we claw at so desperately when we suffer. “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” the psalmist asks. Impertinent and courageous. For our suffering is something we ought to ask an explanation for. Our suffering is something that demands satisfaction.

The book of Job ends with God speaking to Job. And it can seem as though God’s answer is the real takeaway from the story. But I think the story is there in part to show us that it is not just about what God says back to Job, it is also about what Job says to God. Job asks something of God. God grants Job the demand for satisfaction. God comes and speaks back to him. The point of Jacob’s wrestle isn’t merely the hip out of joint. It’s also the hours, the not letting go, and the blessing. In French, the word blessure means wounding. We will be wounded by the answer to our suffering, I am sure, but in the wounding is the blessing, and in the asking is the hope.

Excerpt from Forgiving God: A Story of Faith by Hilary Yancey.
Copyright © 2018. Used with author’s permission.

Hilary Yancey is a writer, philosopher and bookshop manager living in Waco, Texas. In both her philosophical and personal writing, she explores questions of faith, suffering, disability, and embodiment. Her first book, Forgiving God: A Story of Faith was published in 2018 and chronicles her journey with her son’s pregnancy and early diagnosis with complex medical needs. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, helping readers find the next perfect book at Fabled Bookshop, and chasing her three children. You can find her writing on, and on Instagram at @hilaryyancey

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