Disappointment with God

ISBN: 031051780X
ISBN 13: 9780310517801
By: Philip Yancey

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About this book

"Is God listening? and Can He be trusted?" In this book, Yancey tackles the questions caused by a God who doesn't always do what we think he's supposed to do.Philip Yancey has a gift for articulating the knotty issues of faith. In Disappointment with God, he poses three questions that Christians wonder but seldom ask aloud: Is God unfair? Is he silent? Is he hidden? This insightful and deeply personal book points to the odd disparity between our concept of God and the realities of life. Why, if God is so hungry for relationship with us, does he seem so distant? Why, if he cares for us, do bad things happen? What can we expect from him after all? Yancey answers these questions with clarity, richness, and biblical assurance. He takes us beyond the things that make for disillusionment to a deeper faith, a certitude of God's love, and a thirst to reach not just for what God gives, but for who he is.

Reader's Thoughts


Philip Yancey engages the perennial puzzler of an all-good, all-powerful God that allows all manner of seemingly senseless tragedies and misfortunes to befall the world he has created. The book is essentially divided into two parts, the first taking a look at Old Testament history from God's point of view, and the second part engaging the book of Job and the problem of pain from humanity's point of view. I'd say the first part was certainly the stronger, perhaps due to the novelty of thinking about human history from God's perspective. The second part was alright-- it feels to me that Yancey is very good at posing difficult questions, but sometimes he has a hard time providing satisfying answers to the enigmas he has articulated so well. (Of course, the questions he's asking are very, very difficult.) In any event, although this book was a good, thoughtful read, if someone was interested in the topic, I'd recommend instead Yancey's more recent book on Prayer, which tackled many of the same issues in what I think is a more effective manner.

Mark Schlatter

Yancey takes on three basic questions in this book: Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden? His aim is to explore the sense of disappointment experienced by people of faith (primarily Christian) when they believe the answers to one or more of the above questions is yes.The first part of the book is a retelling of the Bible in terms of God's perspective, and to be truthful, I found it somewhat facile. Yancey focuses on the person of God, drawing on metaphors such as parent and lover to explain God's actions, including some of the actions that cause people to think God is distant. It's an interesting approach, but I found it a narrow lens through which to view the scriptures.However, that discussion makes a good preamble for the second half of the book, where Yancey focuses on the believer's experience of disappointment, and many of the themes in the first half bear fruit. By emphasizing the story of Job and the crucifixion of Jesus, Yancey connects the sense of loss experienced by humans with the same loss experienced by God. The result is a focus on compassion and condescension (in the sense of descending with). You can think of the book as a less mystical version of Saint John of the Cross's Dark Night of the Soul with a heavy dose of influence from twentieth century English Christianity (C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton, ...).

David Sarkies

A difficult topic tackled with empathy and skill19 November 2014 The topic of 'if God is good and all powerful then why does he allow suffering' is a difficult topic at best and when you need to tackle it emphatically it becomes almost impossible. Actually, anything to do with Christianity, where you are trying to balance the esoteric truth of the faith with people's feelings is, once again, a very difficult task. Mind you, if you want to write a Christian book that explains Christianity without offending anybody then, well, you might as well look for another topic to tackle because whatever way you approach the topic you are going to offend somebody. The question of suffering is one of those questions that has plagued humanity for centuries, though I must say that the short (if unempathetic answer) to that question is 'if there was no suffering then we would be in heaven already'. Further, the reason why God does not intervene is because he is a merciful God. Basically, if God were to return in two minutes time and obliterate everybody who has upset another person then, well, there will be nobody left because I assure you that we all have done something, whether intentionally or not, to upset another person (and that is not going into the debate as to whether our actions were right or wrong). Anyway, I believe that Yancy has tackled this topic superbly because I believe that he outlines the situation quite well. He also effectively tackles the the questions: Why is God Silent; why does God not reveal himself; and why does God not act. Well, the simple answer is, and he points to the book of Exodus to show us, is that if God did audibly speak, if God did make himself visible to us, and if God did perform miracles, then we would still spit in his face. Basically, the book of Exodus begins with the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, and then God comes along. In a great display of power he obliterates the Egyptian army and guides the former slaves (along with all of the wealth that they had plundered from the Egyptians) out into the desert. Since deserts are well known for their lack of food and water, he then miraculously makes bread (and meat) appear, as well as arranging for water to gush out of a rock. All the time he is hovering in front of the Israelites as a pillar of cloud at night and a pillar of fire during the day. Oh, he also spoke audibly to Moses, and told them what they needed to do to be on his right side. How did the Israelites respond? They complained about how bad their lot was, that they had been dragged out into the desert to die, and pined for a return to their life of slavery. Talk about gratitude. But, as Yancey points out here, and in other parts of the bible, just because God is visible, is audible, and performs great and powerful feats of magic (if you want to call it magic) does not mean that we will all bow down and worship him and dedicate our lives to him. So what that shows us is that if somebody comes up to you and says 'I'll only worship God if he revealed himself to me' you can, with a cheeky smile on your face, say, 'I bet you won't'. That comment on a bet leads me to the next part of this dissertation because that is the main theme that runs through the book of Job, to which Yancey dedicates the second part of his book. The idea here is not so much looking at Job's predicament from a bottom up view, but coming to understand it from a divine view. Basically, as a lot of pastors have suggested, the thing about the Book of Job is that we see what is happening to Job from a heavenly point of view. Further, it seems to come about as a wager between God and Satan. Now, many of us baulk at this idea that God and Satan are having bets over our lives, and that God is bowing to Satan's demands, but consider that Satan does have a point – Job has been exceedingly blessed by God and Satan's argument is that the only reason that Job loves God is because God showers him with gifts. And that is true – if you have money, and lots of it, you can get a lot of people to do things for you by showering gifts on them. I'm sure you have heard of the term Trophy Wife. This is where a wealthy man buys himself a wife, not in the sense that you go to an action house, or a third world country (or a people smuggler) but simply find a woman who is amicable to being showered with gifts and money, and continue to do so until you tire of her. While not everybody can be bought, there are certainly an awful lot of people out there who can. So, what is the deal then? Well, the deal comes down to the question of love. God wants us to love him, and love him through thick and thin. However, love cannot be bought, and love cannot be induced by fear. God loves us unconditionally, and he wants the same in return, not a conditional love where we say 'I'll love you God, but only if you shower me with wealth and make my life a happy life with no problems' nor does he want a love that comes about through fear, because instilling obedience through fear does not generate love, it just generates resentfulness. Thus, because God loves us, and because he wants us to love him unconditionally, and because the world in which we live is a fallen world, God withdraws himself, and sometimes he will appear to withdraw himself even more, watching us, and waiting for that time when we will be remade in the image that we were supposed to be, not the image that we bear now.

Mina Syrian

ثلاثة اسئلة بيناقشها فيليب :هل الله صامت ؟؟هل هو ظالم ؟؟هل هو مختبئ ؟؟الكتاب عبارة عن جزئين الجزء الاول بيبحث اجابات الاسئلة من خلال تعاملات الله مع شعبه زي ما ذكرها الكتاب المقدس من اول ابراهيم حتي كنيسة العهد الجديد الجزء التاني بيناقش الاسئلة دية من خلال قصة ايوبيمكن ميكنش ذكر اجابات واضحة و صريحة للاسئلة عشان هي زي ما قال مش عبارة عن مسائل رياضية ليها اجابات محددة لكن اجاباتها الشخص بيكتشفها من خلال علاقة الحب المتابدلة مع اللهمن رأيي جزء كبير من اجابة الاسئلة دية خاصة مشكلة الظلم اللي في العالم و ليه ربنا ساكت عليه هو قبول فكرة حرية الانسان اللي ربنا اعطاهاله لكن هنا بتظهر مشكلتين :اولا : الناس بتميل دايما لفكرة القدرية وان كل شئ مقدر و مكتوبثانيا : الناس اللي بتؤمن بقي بالحرية و مش مصدقه القدرية برضة فكرة حرية البشر و تأثيرها علي كل الاحداث اللي بتحصلهم فكرة كبيرة جدا جدا و صعبة ان الواحد يقعد يركز فيها .....يعني نتيجة حرية اختيار شخص ممكن شخص تاني يتأذي او يحصله حاجة ...صعبة قوي في قبولها ...يعني صعب ان الواحد يلم بالفكرة كلهاالكتاب كله حاجة فخيمة كدة يستاهل انه يقرأ و محتاج يقرأ مرة تاني كمان فيليب يانسي من احسن الكتاب المسيحييين

Jeffrey Weir

I can't make enough compliments about Philip Yancey. I always enjoy the feeling while I'm reading that I'm right next to him on his journey struggling with the tough questions. I can't say that I feel better after having read this book or that my problems have been solved, but, from an apologetics perspective, I now have a lot more to think about and can draw on a lot of his points as I discuss trials and tribulations with my peers. The foundation for all of his points comes from the book of Jonah, which was already my favorite Old Testament book. He does a great job of delving into all the different aspects of the book and pointing out little things here and there about the character of God and that many of our preconceptions about Him are incorrect for whatever reason. In the end, it always comes down to a personal choice to trust God or to push him away. He points out that there are mutliple responses we can make when we feel disappointment with God, namely ignoring God and crying out to God, either in defiance or desparation. He said that as he's gone through the Bible and experienced all he has in this world, he has concluded that ignoring God always has the worst repurcussions, and that those who cry out to God get a lot of attention in the Bible and are looked upon as heroes for their struggles. I don't want to give any more away, but as with all of his books, it's very insightful, more easy to read than some Christan writers out there, and has a very conversational and humble tone. Recommeneded to everyone.


Yancey is one of my favorite Christian authors. He seems to have an inquisitive mind and seems willing to pay attention to other authors who do not have the same outlook as he does. I like the fact that he quotes from Luther, Buechner, Lewis and others.I am not dealing right now with the "dark night of the soul". My relationship with G-d will always need strengthening, but my life is good at the moment. I think that that fact means this book had less meaning than it might another time. I am not disappointed with G-d, thank G-d.However, I have been disappointed before and will probably struggle with these issues a few more times in my life. I know, that Yancey will be a help when that time comes. He has helped me look at disappointment and the story of Job in a whole new light. I thank him for that.


I really enjoyed this book. It deals with the topic of how sometimes (or most times) we feel like God isn't near us. We go through tough times and wonder where God is in all of that, but really, another way to view it is where are we in all of this? What is our response to God when we endure heartache or disease? Many people want to see God, to have miracles happen all the time, to have every prayer answered. Philip Yancey gives some good arguments as to why God doesn't do this. It's not because he doesn't care or he's not powerful. It's because back in the day, when he did those things with the Israelites, they turned away from Him. It's like a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. A really interesting way of thinking about things, though.

Greg Taylor

Philip Yancey stands out among authors who write what I call "watershed" books that lead you to other books. More than any other Christian author, he has directly hit difficult issues, namely the most important in this book: how do we overcome doubt, disappointment with God, and arguments against his existence such as, "If God is so powerful, and He is so loving, why does He seem to sit on His hands when the world suffers?" Yancey is one of my favorite and most respected authors, and his works have changed my life in many ways.

Michael Culbertson

Although more exposition than story, this fine work by Philip Yancey reads as a single narrative. Reading this book gave me a wonderful, fresh perspective on the very familiar story of the Bible as God's relentless pursuit out of love for for His estranged children. I must confess that the last third of the book, where Yancey approaches questions of suffering from the human side of things through the story of Job, left me a little unsatisfied. But, if (as Yancey points out) God himself chooses to respond to the question "Why, o Lord?" with "Behold I am God," I can't very well fault Yancey for failing to provide any other answer. Highly recommended for all Christians.

Sameh Maher

كتاب جميل عبارة عن قسمين القسم الاول منه لا يستحق اكثر من 3 نجوم او اقل فهو مجرد سرد عادى لاحداث وتهيئة للقسم الثانى ولكن القسم الثانى جميل جدا رغم ان الكاتب لم يقدم تبصراته الشخصية ولكن اعتمد على كتابات سى اس لويس وبدونها لم يكم الكتاب ليقدم جديدا ورغم ذلك يبقى اجابة جيدة جدا على الثلاثة اسئلة الاصعب والذى اعتقد انهم سؤال واحد فى النهاية وهو اين الله فى الضيقة لماذا يختفى الله فى وسط الضيقات ويقدم الكاتب الثلاة اسئلة فى اطار حياة شخص اسمه رشيد ويقدم امثلة من اشخاص اخرين لهم نفس الاختبار الكتاب عامة جيد وسهل القراءة بدون تعقيد يحمل العديد من التبصرات وصادق الى ابعد حدولكن بعض الاراء فيه تحتاج الى مراجعة او ضبط ابائى حتى يستحق نجمة اخرى ولكنه يقدم اجابة صريحة لمشكلة الالم فى اسلوب شيق وبسيطومن الكتب التى يمكن قراءتها مرات عديدة بدون ملل


Another book I picked off off my in-law's shelf during paternity leave. It's a good read; I was surprised to find that Philip Yancey is a VERY good writer. He avoids cliche, always finding ways to phrase ideas in a way that sounds original and insightful. I didn't like how he used his friend Richard as the main structural device for the book; I kept thinking...poor Richard. However, he had lots of very interesting reflections on the nature of suffering, God, life and meaning. One of the interesting moments came for me near the end of the book, when he says, basically this (a paraphrase, not a quote): "Life has some truly terrible things in it, and suffering is absolutely unavoidable. The alternative, it seems, to disappointment with God, is disappointment with God."

Vicki G

I disagree with him. I think the members of the church who refuse any and all intervention to save the lives of their children are guilty of child neglect at the least and downright abuse at the most.As a Paramedic, I see this ridiculous line of reasoning, that God needs no medical intervention to heal someone, at least 10 times a year. Did they ever think that sending medical intervention WAS part of "God's plan?"That people are his eyes and ears, and hands, while on earth?That's what my former pastor said about it.And BTW dying of a flu that turned into meningitis is one of the more PAINful ways to go. People have no idea what symptoms appear in the "host" body as meningitis follows its course to death's doorstep and beyond.It's bad enough to watch someone die because they have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, but sitting there and watching someone die because your version of god forbids you to get a blood transfusion, or your version of God warns you against seeking any medical help at ALL, feels like undue agony.


The major part I most admired about this book is the author's honesty. There are no shallow Christian cliches or well-intended remedies for those walking through grief. Disappointment with God is real and even the most mature of Christians come to experience the great well of anger or sorrow when stripped by the harshness of life. I truly appreciate the approach Yancey took to wrestling with this disappointment with God. He takes the reader through the history of mankind, from the OT when God was manifesting Himself day and night, to when Christ came in the flesh, to the age of the Holy Spirit. It is humbling to be reminded that God's miracles and face-to-face encounters never produced lasting faith or joy (we are no better than the Israelites!). And it also true that even God in the flesh as Christ, a part of our ordinary life, wasn't enough to secure our faith in Him. The Life of His very Spirit has to be reproduced in us in order to secure us with His abiding presence, promises, and love. The indwelling life of Christ is what births endurance, faith, and hope. Yancey, taking his readers through the book of Job and various Biblical accounts, anchors our faith, even in the midst of crippling disappointments and sufferings, in the knowledge of the true character of our loving and patient God. Each chapter of this book covered a different layer to our experiences of disappointment. Yancey isn't afraid to cover the raw questions we all feel inside when God seems "hidden" from us in our pain. This book was good counsel for my tender heart.

Diane Danielson

I am very happy that my sister Lisa recommended this book to me. I spent all weekend reading it and I'm glad I purchased this book so I can reread parts of it.

Bob LaCross

Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden? These are questions that Christians are reluctant to ask. These are the three questions Philip Yancey tackles from both Biblical and personal perspectives. Yancey addresses the very real frustrations of those who pray so hard for mercies and healing, only to have those prayers seemingly met with indifference and silence from a loving God. Why do good people seem to suffer and struggle, while the not-so-good thrive and succeed? While Yancey's conclusions are predictable, he presents good arguments and finishes with a charge.

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