Even if you are not a Christian, and even if you are not facing severe pain, this book is worth reading. It's worth reading because it will give you fascinating insights into the human body. It's worth reading because it will broaden your perspective after reading about people who have faced tremendous pain. And if for no other reason, it's worth reading because Philip Yancey is a great writer. His writing style is pithy, yet never brusque. He skillful balances journalistic fact, personal narrative, and theology in a way that few others can.
If you are struggling with physical or psychological pain, you will find a friend in Yancey. He approaches this topic respectfully, without simplistic answers and tears back a bit of the mystery surrounding the problem of pain in this world. I know I'll never come across a work that can answer all or even most of my questions, but I appreciate an author that will jump in the sticky battle for answers with a sharp eye for truth and a spirit sensitive to God's voice.
The beginning part of this book explores pain from a physical perspective. It touches on time that Yancy spent with Dr. Paul Brand who works with leprosy patients and investigates how pain is useful from a biological perspective. As the book moves on, Yancey's scope widens to address other aspects of pain and suggest some ways that God might be using pain.
However, at no time was I left with that troubling feeling that I sometimes get after someone quotes that verse about God using all things for our good. Yancey allows that it is much more complicated than that, at least from the perspective of this lifetime. Instead Yancey (much like C.S. Lewis) confronts these pat solutions and champions the cause of all of us who struggle to reconcile the seeming paradox of a compassionate God who is Lord over a pain-filled world.