"Disappointment With God"

by Philip Yancey (Zondervan, 1988)

     I must make a confession here.  I was really down and out.  I was on the verge of giving up the ministry.  I was really disappointed with God.  I had read one of Philip Yancey's books (Where Is God When It Hurts?) and was greatly impressed by the author's thoughts, sensibility and ideas.  Then I came across his "Disappointment with God."  I randomly flipped the pages and the following caught my eyes:
     "Ever since my book Where Is God When It Hurts? was published, I have received letters from people disappointed with God" (p.21) writes Philip Yancey.  "These and other letters I have received over the years all lead up the same basic question, phrased in different ways…I must confess that after reading these anguished accounts I ask the very same questions.  Where is God in our emotional pain?  Why does he so often disappoint us?" (p.22).
     The last two questions caught my attention: "Where is God in our emotional pain?  Why does he so often disappoint us?"  They were the questions that had plagued my mind.  Is God unfair?  Is God silent?  Is God hidden?  These were the questions I had asked. 
     As I thought through I was brought to the awareness that these are three questions that are often asked and spoken by people suffering and in pain.  And here in his book, Yancey tries to answer them.  And he did so with clarity, richness, and Biblical certainty.
     I have found it not only a delight to read but feel really nourished by it. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who may have forsaken his/her faith, like that theology student who "barbecued" his books and the Bible.
     One day a theology student at Wheaton College Graduate School, called the author one day and said:
"I prayed that night as earnestly and sincerely as I knew how.  I prayed on my knees, and I prayed stretched out flat on the oak floor.  'God! Do you care?' I prayed.  'I don't want to tell you how to run your world, but please give me some sign that you're really there!  That's all I ask'….
    "I prayed for at least four hours…. Finally, at four o'clock in the morning, I came to my senses.  Nothing had happened. God had not responded.  Why continue torturing myself? Why not just forget God and get on with life, like most of the rest of the world?
     "Instantly I felt a sense of relief and freedom, like I had just passed a final exam or gotten my first driver's license.  The struggle was over.  My life was my own.
     "It seems silly now, but this is what I did next. I picked up my Bible and a couple other Christian books and walked downstairs and out the back door.  I shut the door softly behind me, so as not to wake anyone. In the backyard was a brick barbecue grill, and I piled the books on it, sprayed them with lighter fluid, and struck a match.  It was a moonless night, and the flames danced high and bright.  Bible verses and bits of theology curled, blackened, then broke off in tiny crumbs of ash and floated skyward.  My faith was going up with them."
     With this in mind, Yancey then goes into a searching for answers.  Answers for the three questions above.  This is not a theoretical book. It is filled with stories, interviews and letters from genuine people, like us.  And some of them are bleak cases of personal tragedies (as with the student above). 
     As you read the book you can also sense the author's struggles to find answers.  And what he found challenges the easy "talks" that pass for spiritual thinking in our day.  I mean, how many of us have spoken glibly like, "If God feels far away, guess who moved?"
As you read you will find him trying his level best to develop some deep satisfying answers. The author might not have been successful.  But he sought to try to get to the heart of the loving, passionate relationship between God and His people.
     It is difficult not quoting from this book to have a sense of what Yancey have discovered.  Allow me to share some quotes from the book:
     "As I studied the story of the Israelites, I had second thoughts about crystal-clear guidance.  It may serve some purpose---it may, for example, get a mob of just-freed slaves across a hostile desert---but it does not seem to encourage spiritual development.  In fact, for the Israelites it nearly eliminated the need for faith at all; clear guidance sucked away freedom, making every choice a matter of obedience rather than faith.  And in forty years of wilderness wanderings, the Israelites flunked the obedience test so badly that God was forced to start over with a new generation" (p.46).
     "After two weeks of studying the Bible, I had a strong sense that God doesn't care so much about being analyzed.  Mainly, he wants to be loved.  Nearly every page of his Word rustles with this message. And I returned home knowing I must somehow explore the relationship between a passionate God---hungry for the love of his people---and the people themselves. All feelings of disappointment with God trace back to a breakdown in that relationship"
     "With remarkable consistency, the Bible's accounts show that miracles---dramatic, showstopping miracles like many of us still long for---simply do not foster deep faith"
     "Every act of faith by every one of the people of God is like the tolling of a bell, and a faith like Job's reverberates throughout the universe"
Philip Yancey is Biblical, wise and compassionate. And you will find it difficult to put it down.  As you read it you will find it harder not to be moved and challenged by it. The book is available at the BGST Library (Ref.: LC 231.7 YAN).

(Reviewed by Dr John Lim)

     We are privileged to have Rev. David Wong (from the Haggai Institute) as our chapel speaker last week. Rev Wong was the Deputy Dean of BGST at the commencement of our School and we treasure our link with him in whatever possible. He spoke on the topic "Starting Right" with the text taken from 1 Kings 3:1-15. We must not only start well but also end well. Like Solomon who started right when he admitted to God that he was nothing: "But I am only a child..." (1 Kings 3:7). And he asked God for the right thing: "So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people" (1 Kings 3:9).
     Unfortunately, Solomon didn't end well because he failed to stick to the main thing. He made some bad choices. We are told in 1 Kings 11:4 that "his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD."
     Rev Wong then went on to list six steps to help us finish well:
* We hear              * We decide
* We understand    * We do
* We remember      * We persist in doing
     May the good Lord help us all to finish well what He started in us.


We continue our presentation of our recent graduands. Praise God with us for Richard & Pak Wah, and for others to be presented next week.

Richard Hui Jor Yeong
M.B.B.S., National University of Singapore
Master of Medicine, National University of Singapore
Dip CS, BGST (cum laude)
Richard is a doctor at St. Luke's Hospital for the Elderly. He is a member of Geylang Evangelical Free Church. After graduation he will be engaging in tent-making mission work. His life verse is Gal. 2:20: 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'

Lai Pak Wah
B.Bus (Financial Analysis), NTU
Dip CS, BGST  (cum laude)
Pak Wah lectures at the Singapore Polytechnic and is a member of the Mount Carmel Bible Presbyterian Church. After graduation he aims to pursue the MCS at Regent College, Vancouver, and thereafter study towards a Th.M. His mission in life is summed up in the statement: 'May our theology always be prayer and prayer theology'.

  1. Library and office will be closed at 1pm this Friday for Lunar New Year Eve.

  2. Courses commencing next week:

  • Tent: Personal Ministry Skills (commencing Feb 4)

  • Masters of the Pulpit (commencing Feb 5)

  • Themes of Proverbs (commencing Feb 6)

  1. Change of Course Dates for "The Gospel of Luke". Please note that this course will commence one month later. New dates: Mar 7, 14, 21, 28.  Time: 7-10pm.

  2. On Feb 9, Rev Ng Seng Chuan will be preaching at Mt Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church at 10:45am and 1:00pm on "Parable of the Ten Maidens" (Matt. 25:1-13) and at Church of the Good Shepherd at 4:00pm on "Christ Supreme" (Col. 1:15-23).

God's Richest Blessings To Our Birthday Stars!

Mr Paul Chua 29/1
Mr Jonathan Cortes 30/1
Ms Liaw Chin Chen 1/2
Mr Raymond Wong 2/2
Ms Chan Ee Yuee 2/2

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This page is updated on 30 Jan 2003 by Leong Kok Weng
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