It’s a laid-back Friday afternoon and as soon as author and speaker Philip Yancey says, ‘hello,’ I can tell he has dedicated all of his focus on our conversation.
For many who know of the works of Yancey, his intentionality is not surprising. Yancey is regarded by many as a counselor who knows how to guide people through their situation, while simultaneously pointing them to Christ.
Best known for his work on listening to God through pain and suffering, Yancey is no strangers to what deep pain feels like.
Yancey was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and can remember feeling the agony of living a life without a father as well as the emotional turmoil he experienced as a part of a specific legalistic church.
Yancey's father died when he was just one year old, and the church his family belonged to at the time showed anything but grace.
“I had a lot of ups and downs growing up as a child and young adult," Yancey shared.
"I grew up in an unhealthy church environment that made me question God and Faith based on how they treated people of color," he added.
Fortunately, it was in his years of wondering that God placed some important and influential people in Yancey’s life and his faith began to blossom.
"I found my own path spiritually when I left to go to college," he shared.
During this time, Yancey would be introduced to Paul Brand, someone Yancey would later come to describe as a father-figure, and other healthy like-minded believers who showed him that God was stitching together a powerful testimony from the pain he experienced in his early life.
"Nothing goes wasted in our life,” Yancey asserted.
This is why he believes that, as Christ followers, we are called to respond just like Jesus did when faced with people who need comforting.
"We, as Christ followers, should be bringing comfort in times like we live in, were not the first group of people to deal with a pandemic,” Yancey said before adding, "We should be very careful to speak for God, especially when it comes to bringing judgement."
Yancey, who has nearly completed his autobiography which is due out next year, has come to peace with the maintaining the duty of being the “go to” author on pain and suffering.
"It takes its toll on me at times, talking about pain and suffering, but I also know that God is on the side of the sufferer," he shared.
When asked what his favorite book is, Yancey doesn't skip of beat. “It’s very easy to tell you my favorite book, which is Soul Survivor,” he said.
“Telling the story of thirteen people who challenged me, with Martin Luther King Jr. being one of those people, because he helped fix my eyes on God."
Yancey noted that that sentiment is particularly relevant today, noting that he hopes and prays that believers will fix their eyes on God in these difficult days.
Photo courtesy: Philip Yancey Facebook