It's easy to forget that pain has a human face. Sure, we hear about terrorist attacks, AIDS victims, tsunamis and wildfires, but until someone close to us is affected we dismiss them with sterile language—"tragedy" or "disaster" or "calamity." None of those terms reveal the immediacy and horror of suffering. When your wife is diagnosed with cancer or your son dies in a car wreck or you lose your job right after you take out a mortgage on a new house, you begin to understand what it means to hurt.
Christians should have the best perspective on pain, but we often produce pat answers or try to identify the sin that is supposedly the cause of hardship. Philip Yancey aims to guide us toward a more biblical view while also encouraging us to accept pain without ignoring or trying to understand it. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to everyone, and often there's no reason we can know or comprehend. It's not a neat answer, but it's the Scriptural one, and explaining it away won't lessen its reality.
Yancey begins with the biology of pain, its effect on our lives, and its different forms. Next he looks at the universality of suffering, God's relationship to suffering, and whether it's a divine mistake or part of the plan. Finally (this is the most practical and best part of the book), he suggests the proper Christian response to suffering, how to reach out to those in pain and how to comfort them.
This isn't a philosophical treatment. Yancey's solution to theodicy (how can suffering and a good God coexist?) is biblical, but some who are familiar with the history of Western thought may be unsatisfied on an ethical and rational level. That isn't the point, however. Yancey admits the validity of philosophy, but here his concern is to demonstrate that God is present in our suffering and that often His comfort is mediated to those in pain through the service of others. Easy to read and filled with compassion, Where Is God When It Hurts? is an excellent practical response to one of mankind's most enduring and troubling questions.