Oh boy! Friend, are you ready for this?
Our Number 4 episode in the countdown of the Top 25 most-listened to episodes on the Heal Podcast is one of the best-selling contemporary Christian authors, Philip Yancey. I’m still amazed that I got to chat with such a stellar human being as Philip, and everything I’ve seen since our interaction has only cemented my respect for him.
Listen or re-listen today to Episode 44 to hear Philip Yancey share about pain. From his dad dying of polio to the multiple books he has authored on grappling with God about disappointment and pain, Philip is as close to an expert in this field as it comes (if such a thing existed). Philip's books have sold more than 15 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide. He did not disappoint in this conversation, sharing hard-earned wisdom that I believe is going to bless your socks off.
In his own life, Philip grew up in a church where praying for healing was the norm. So when his father contracted polio, prayers were lifted up with fervor for his healing. His father passed away when Philip was an infant, leaving him with only a couple of black and white photos as his main memory of his dad. But years later in adulthood, Philip found out that his father had died when the decision was made to take him out of the iron lung that was sustaining his life, based on the fact that he believed God would heal him and he did not need the help of medicine. Philip shares about this part of his story in our interview, in addition to the many ways he has wrestled with God.
One of my favorite elements of Philip’s story is the redemption of fatherhood in his life. Through his journalism career and while he was writing Where is God When it Hurts?, Philip met Dr. Paul Brand, a doctor who had devoted the majority of his life to helping leprosy patients. Over a fifteen-year period, Dr. Brand became a father figure to Philip, and they ended up authoring three books together.
One of those books was The Gift of Pain, which is the namesake for this episode. While we usually think of our pain as a curse, Dr. Brand saw pain as a gift. Working in India when there was still much to learn about leprosy, Dr. Brand discovered something that many had not: where people previously believed those with leprosy would lose extremities due to the disease, Dr. Brand found that was not the case.
His leprosy patients had extensive damage to their extremities or other body parts because leprosy damages their nerves and their ability to feel pain. They could hammer their hand and not feel it, stick their arm into boiling water to grab a potato and then wonder why they ended up with blisters on their skin, or lose their toes to rats who ate them off in the middle of the night (Dr. Brand ended up partnering his patients with pet cats to resolve this problem).
For this doctor, pain was an absolute gift, for he saw the devastation that came when it was absent. For those who see pain as a constant companion, or for those whose pain reactors are firing uncontrollably in ways they are not supposed to, the idea of pain being a blessing seems ridiculous. Yancey and Brand do not argue that all pain is good, but rather that pain can lead us to healing, both literally and metaphorically. Like Philip said in our conversation, “Pain redeemed impresses me far more than pain removed.”
I’ve read five of Yancey’s books, and each one is incredible. Philip shares that same wisdom in an audible format today, and I pray God will use this conversation to stir something new inside of you as you journey towards healing. Philip was an absolute gem of a person both while we recorded and when we were off-recording, and I cannot urge you more heartily to give this episode a listen and his resources a try.
In addition, since this interview was recorded, Philip released his memoir, Where the Light Fell, which gives a fascinating glimpse into how he became the author and person he is today, shaped by what he observed in a Southern fundamentalist church and the social travesties around him as he grew up. He also dives further into the story about his dad, which may hold special interest for those interested in how we approach healing as Christians. With all of the incredible books Philip has written, check out some and see if one might be up your alley to help you through this stage of your pain journey.
Listen to learn more about:
· How pain can be a gift in our lives, when we are so accustomed to it being a burden, an annoyance, or a downright tragedy.
· What it looks like to honestly express our disappointment to God, and then how to have faith in Him, anyway.
· How Philip has seen God move and redeem pain in his own life, and how that has led to him becoming one of the most prolific Christian authors of all time.
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· “Pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed. When we’re hurting, often we want the pain to go away. You watch the ads on television and that’s what they promise – ‘Just take this pill and ten minutes later you’ll feel fine’ – but the Bible doesn’t promise that every pain is going to go away. In fact, it assumes the opposite. I’ve looked at all the passages, in the New Testament especially, about pain, things like Romans 5, James 1, 2 Corinthians, 1 Peter – they all look forward. We tend to want to look backward – ‘Why did this happen?’ ‘What is God trying to tell me?’ – and the Bible doesn’t give a lot of wisdom there; it just ignores that question largely. But it does say something good, something productive, something redemptive can come out of that, and it describes some of those things: patience and hope and compassion for other people going through something similar. These are the products of pain.” -Heal Podcast, Episode 44
· “True atheists do not, I presume, feel disappointed in God. They expect nothing and receive nothing. But those who commit their lives to God, no matter what, instinctively expect something in return. Are those expectations wrong?” -Disappointed with God
· “Where is God when it hurts? He is in us – not in the things that hurt – helping to transform bad into good.” -Where is God When it Hurts?
· “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” -Where is God When it Hurts?
· “There is no shortcut, no magic, only the possibility of a lifetime search for intimacy with a God who gently communicates to us through the Holy Spirit.” -Fearfully and Wonderfully
· “If I held in my hands the power to eliminate physical pain from the world, I would not exercise it.” -Dr. Paul Brand, The Gift of Pain
Links from our conversation:
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