• Philip Yancey "The Question of Suffering" | Episode Transcript

    Karen Pascal: Hello, I’m Karen Pascal. I’m the executive director of the Henri Nouwen Society. Welcome to a new episode of Henri Nouwen, Now and Then. Our goal at the society is to extend the rich, spiritual legacy of Henri Nouwen to audiences around the world. We invite you to share these podcasts and our free, daily meditations with your friends and family. Through them, we can continue to introduce new audiences to the writings and the teachings of Henri Nouwen, and we can remind each listener that they’re a beloved child of God. 

    My guest today is well-known writer and journalist Philip Yancey. Philip has authored more than 24 books. He’s drawn to write about those things which are deep, disturbing questions of faith – not just for him, but for all of us. His writing often circles around issues raised by pain and suffering. Hence, we have titles like, Where’s God When It Hurts, A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith, The Jesus I Never Knew, and Church: Why Bother? Philip knew Henri Nouwen and wrote about the profound impact Henri had on him in his book, Soul Survivor. Today, there are more than 15 million copies of Philip Yancey’s books in print in over 50 languages. Philip wrote one of my favorite books, What’s So Amazing About Grace? And that sold well over 2 million copies. 

    Philip Yancey, welcome to Henri Nouwen, Now and Then.

    Philip Yancey: Thank you. It’s good to be back here.

    Karen Pascal: Let’s start with this book, which has impacted so many of us. What is so amazing about grace? Why did you write this book in the first place?

    Philip Yancey: Well, to tell you the truth, I had a quite a little bit different title originally, and it was What is So Amazing About Grace and Why Don’t Christians Show More of It? And I was concerned about the fact that when I would ask people, “What is a Christian,” or especially, “What is an evangelical,” they would give me usually a negative response: “Well, those are the people who are think they’re holier than you, or they’re morally superior.” And nobody ever commented on something like grace or love. And it seemed like we were missing the main command that Jesus gave us: to go out and show grace and love in the world. 

    Well, my publisher said, “I don’t know about that title. That’s a little bit in your face, especially if you get that book as a gift. And the other thing is, that’s too many words to put on the spine of a book.” So, we shortened it to What’s So Amazing About Grace.

    Karen Pascal: Well, it’s been out for almost 25 years, but during this pandemic, you decided that it was time to maybe revise it. This latest version is even more powerful and meaningful than the first. Was it your pandemic project? 

    Philip Yancey: It’s one of two pandemic projects. I did that because a lot of things that I had scheduled were suddenly canceled – overseas trips, things like that. We couldn’t do that anymore. So, I had a little extra time on my hands. And the other thing I picked up was a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time, 40 years. And that was to bring John Donne’s devotions, which he wrote in the midst of a terrible pandemic – bubonic plague – this classic of literature that we study in in school. You know, “No man is an island” and “for whom the bell tolls” – these phrases that are part of everybody’s vocabulary. Yet people aren’t reading that book. And I wanted to edit it in a way to make it more accessible to modern readers, because the same things that he struggled with 400 years ago in the midst of that pandemic were directly applicable to us in the current pandemic.

    Karen Pascal: It was an amazing choice you made. I mean, I went back immediately and printed out the text of his book, because I was wondering, how did you do this? And you’ve really kept the essence of what he had to offer so beautifully. But at the same time, you’ve made it something I can read and understand, and it is profound. How did it impact you?

    Philip Yancey: It truly is. Actually, it led to my very first book. When I read John Donne’s book and studied it, I was so moved, I went out and bought a bunch of copies. Four hundred years old, and it’s never been out of print. It’s that kind of classic. And I would give it to my friends who had a suffering issue, and then check with them: 

    “Did you read this?” 

    “Well, a couple pages, but it’s pretty tough.” 

    I said, “Yeah, but it’s really good. You have got to keep going.”

    There’s some strange stuff in there. Back then, the state-of-the-art treatment for plague was to bleed people and to apply pigeons to their mouths to draw away the vapors, you know? And when you’re reading it and you think, “Boy, this is weird stuff.”

    And the other thing was writing was different back then. I went through and counted; one sentence had 234 words, and in our modern newspaper and magazine and social media world, we’re just not used to 234-word sentences. So, I tried to keep the thoughts and the beauty of the prose that he had, but mostly just cut out the things that didn’t apply anymore, and break up some sentences to make them a little more digestible. Exactly what you said, to make it accessible, so that it had his original thoughts, his original emotions, and his insights, but without the barriers that keep people from reading.

    Karen Pascal: Well, you know what I found so interesting with the book? It was … well, first of all, in your introduction you say, “He saw pain is God’s megaphone, but it did not, however, stop him from shouting back.” And to be quite honest, it kind of reminded me of you. You must feel a bit like Donne. It’s like you see God using pain, and yet you shout back and ask “why?” in so many of your books.

    Philip Yancey: That’s really true. And I wrote a book called Disappointment with God, a book about that. And some people would say, “I don’t know about this title. Why don’t you make it something like How to Overcome Disappointment with God?” And my response to the publisher was, “I don’t want to reach those people. They don’t need this book. I want to reach people that are right in the middle of it.” 

    “And well, do we have the right to say that?

    And I just say, “Read the Bible.” My goodness – Lamentations, the book of Job, the prophets, so many of the psalms where God actually gives us the words we can use. That’s one of the things that I think is a secret to Henri Nouwen, whose legacy you’re concerned with keeping going. And he was a trained psychologist, and he dove deep into self-reflection and emotions.

    And again and again, when you talk to people, “What is it that attracts you to Henri’s books,” they talk about, “He is so authentic, he’s so realistic. There are no holds barred.” So, when he wrote the Genesee Diary, for example, he thought he was going to maybe change his life, go down to South America, and live there the rest of his life in an impoverished community. And it didn’t work out very well. So, later, he’s reflecting on that in the book Gracias, which of course tells the story. And in all the major decisions he’s made, he and God are companions along the way. 

    And Henri and God have it out when something comes up. He doesn’t try to hide his emotions. He immediately goes first to God, just bares his soul, and listens and does the spiritual practices that are necessary to hear from God in response.

    And I found exactly the same pattern in John Donne. Here he was, the dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul, the largest church in England, at a time of great crisis, when a third of London had died and a third had fled the city just because they were afraid of the plague. And the people who were left needed a comforter, needed a pastor. And then he got what he thought was the plague. 

    It turned out not to be, but he’s lying there, unable to even research his books, his library, unable even to use the Bible. But he pens this classic, just because he thinks he’s dying, and it just doesn’t seem right. “Why would God do this at a time when I was called to bring comfort to London? And it really needs my voice, and it just isn’t working out.” And it’s that kind of raw, authentic honesty that I think we need at crisis times. I just have respect for a God that gives us the words to kind of rail against God, you know? They’re there in the Bible. 

    Karen Pascal: I love that: “Come let us argue together.” And I know at that point in my life, when I was just in such pain, and such a sense of loss, it was like at that moment, I didn’t have to cover it up and say nice things to God about it. I could rail and God said, “Let’s argue together.”

    And it was a moment of breakthrough in my own life. And I think I agree with you. I think that’s what people find in Henri’s work. They find a realness. He doesn’t make it clean and pretty in a way, you know? 

    But I also find that in your work. I find that, for example, I’m going to jump back just for a moment to What’s So Amazing About Grace. You did this kind of renewed version, and there could possibly never be a more important time for us to be talking about grace. We’re living in times where it seems like we’re ferociously divided, and sadly, it, it’s penetrated the church. And that’s really kind of a frightening thing to see. What are your thoughts about that today?

    Philip Yancey: Oh, well, the United States, of course, is very unified these days. And we don’t really have those kind of division problems. And if you believe that, you have your head in the sand. I mean, you hear people say the United States has never been more divided. Well, I don’t know about that. We did have a civil war, you know, and I lived through the 1960s when things were very divided: marching in the streets, bombings going off. So, we do have that history. But if you take the pandemic, for example, if there was ever a time when the church could have been a healing salve, it would be that. It affected almost everybody in the world in some way, either economically or in some sort of quarantine. And it affected travel, it affected business. Everything was disrupted. 

    And we have a clear pattern of how to respond in a time of crisis like that. It’s in II Corinthians:1, and Paul talks about the comfort that we have received from the God of all comfort – I love that title, the God of all comfort – we should spread abroad to those who haven’t received it. And then he goes on to call God the Father of compassion.

    I don’t think that’s what the church was known for doing during the pandemic. Instead, we had church splits over whether to do the vaccine or not, or whether to wear masks or not, and lawsuits. And the church was unfortunately part of the shrill voice that made things more difficult, instead of being that place of comfort, that place of refuge, that place of healing. So, it’s a message that we need to be reminded of. What is grace? How does grace respond, apply in a situation like the pandemic that we all lived through? 

    Karen Pascal: Let’s go back and talk about John Donne and what he was experiencing. And how did this minister to you in the midst of a pandemic? You find this treasure and begin to open it up. What did you find there that you could take forward and you want to give to all of us? 

    Philip Yancey: Well, he goes through the stages of – what would you call them? The stages of crisis, I suppose. You know, we had, years ago, we had Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who talked about the stages of grief. And we later learned that it doesn’t work, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Very few people go in the order she set them out. But they were important insights into what we all experience when we go through grief. And when you go through, you get a diagnosis, for example, your mind just plays tricks. You go as far as you can go. 

    Unfortunately, I just this year had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and immediately, I started thinking of the worst-case scenarios. Am I going to be paralyzed in a week? You know, am I going to lose my ability to talk, to think? Maybe I’m going to be one of the dementia patients? Because that can happen in Parkinson’s. 

    And so, there’s that fear aspect that, especially if you get a diagnosis like cancer, you just can’t get away from. There it is. And John Donne analyzes that. He really talks about the different stages you go through, and it helps. And he finally concludes: “Well, let’s see. I can fear this. I can fear that. I can fear this. I can fear that. Or I can fear God in the right way, the trusting way. I fear who you are. You’re an awesome God, and I trust you. I give you my life. Or I can fear everything else.” 

    And he decides, “I’m going to fear God.” You know, it seems easier just to fear God. So, that insight, and then that famous passage that I referred to – “for whom the bell tolls,” you know, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you” – that happened when he was lying in bed. 

    And in those days, they had a bell that would announce a person who’s seriously ill, and then they would announce an actual death, and then another bell that would announce the funeral. And he heard the bell, and he suddenly kind of startled awake, and he thought, “Maybe they haven’t told me. Maybe I’m dead. Or maybe I’m going to be dead. Maybe that’s my funeral bell.”

    And he starts thinking about that. And then he realizes, “I’m so self-absorbed. I think everything is about me.” He didn’t use those words, but that’s what he said. “Maybe it’s about me. Maybe I’ll not think about the person for whom this bell did toll. And maybe, instead of thinking about, ‘oh, poor me,’ I ought to think about there are a lot of other people suffering in this community here. These are my parishioners. I should start praying for them and caring about them as much as about me.” 

    And I call that process, Karen, “redeeming pain.” Finding something good about it, to let it prod you in a healthy direction. And that’s exactly what John Donne did as he lay there in pretty bad straits. But he turned his attention, his focus away from, “oh, poor me,” and started thinking, “How can that be useful? Well, okay, I can’t consult my Bible or my books, but I can pray. I can pray for whoever this person was who maybe just died.” 

    And in ways like that, I call God the Great Recycler. He takes the junk and can make out of it something worthwhile, something reusable. And you see that again and again in John Donne, as he’s lying there trying to come to terms with, “What can I take away from this? Do I have anything left to contribute or is my life over?”

    Karen Pascal: I found your book, which I can read. I mean, I went back and tried to read John Donne’s essays, and I realized, it was probably a little thicker at this point, though I’m used to reading Shakespeare and King James English and that sort of thing. Nevertheless, your book really takes it and makes it so alive to me, and yet conserves the essence of what John is saying so beautifully. 

    I found it … I would have to say the book undid me. I loved it. And I loved it from a place of some of the questions that I asked about aging. You know, that is a journey that we’re all on. Some of us would like to deny it, and we’ll try and stay as healthy as we possibly can until we’re 110 or whatever, you know, whatever God allows us. 

    But the great truth is there’s a journey there. I call it “the steep uphill climb of old age.” And I found the book for me, in its honesty, it does remind me of Henri Nouwen. It does remind me of the importance of the honesty I can have with God, the God that we can come let us argue together. And I think you’ve done a beautiful job of that. But I also really appreciate the beginning and the closing chapters that you’ve added, which allow us into your life and into the struggles that you might be facing. And I think that’s a richness to this book, a reason why I would want to recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

    It really is a beautiful book. You’ve done such a lovely job with this. In your own health crisis – and I mean, there’s a crisis when you get a label that somebody says that’s you – I’m curious just how that’s going for you, and the fears, the peace, the “where’s God?” in the crisis.

    Philip Yancey: Well, thank you for asking. A lot of people have written me; some with advice, some telling stories. There are a million people just in the United States with Parkinson’s, so it’s not that rare. And many people will talk about their uncle or their grandfather. It’s not just a male disease; 40% of them are women as well. 

    And it varies wildly. The doctor said to me when she first diagnosed it, she said, “I’ve got patients that I’ve had for 20 years who are still running, doing triathlons, and yet I’ve got others who can barely move and slur their words. They’re very hard to understand, and we really don’t have much understanding yet, or really good treatment.”

    I’ve got medication that can mask the symptoms, and it’s working well for me. But at the same time, those neurons in my body are one by one being attacked, and dying. And all you can do is keep upping the medication. 

    There was a movie made about the actor, Michael J. Fox, called Still, that was recently released. And it talked about his saga. And he has a hard time talking now. “Hetalksaboutfastingkindofstartsyoucan’t.” He talks just like that. And that’s going to change my life for sure. If I start talking like Michael J. Fox, I won’t be invited to speak anywhere, I would imagine. 

    But my wife came across a definition of health that I found very helpful. She says: Health is the ability to adapt to life as it happens. The ability to adapt to life as it happens. There are some things that we can control – exercise, diet, things like that – that affect our health, but some things we can’t control. And Parkinson’s is one of them. 

    My diagnosis is idiopathic Parkinson’s, which basically means doctors have no idea where it comes from. And I think that applies to spiritual health as well. Spiritual health. I would say spiritual health is the ability to trust God as life happens. God is not the one up there sticking pins in us just to see how we flinch. God is the one on the side of the sufferer. I know that because I just look at Jesus, the way he handled suffering people. He always responded with comfort and healing, never guilt. 

    And John Donne, when he was young, was quite a randy fellow. He was one of these young cavaliers and probably had an illegitimate child in England, or rather in the continent of Europe, and wrote this erotic poetry. That’s how he got his fame as a poet. And then later he had a conversion. He became a pastor, a vicar. And then of course, he had this huge turnabout. He became the dean of the largest cathedral in Europe. 

    But when he is lying there on his bed trying to recover, he starts thinking. The guilt kind of creeps back in. He starts thinking, “Has God nailed me to my bed?” The place where he had been so unfaithful in many ways. And Calvinism was kind of new then, and they were still trying to figure it out. And John Calvin was saying, “Everything that happens is God-ordained for you.” And, well, “Is God punishing me? Did God bring this illness upon me?” 

    And these are the questions that we all face at some point. If you do something wrong, you start thinking, “Well, I’m being punished for that.”

    And I guess I would come back and say that’s karma. That’s not grace. That’s not the God I know. Whenever the Pharisees or whoever, even Jesus’ disciples, would try to apply that, say to a man born blind, “Who sinned, his parents or him,” Jesus would always contradict him and say, “Neither one, but this happened so that the works of God can be made manifest in him.” 

    And in some people, like that person, Jesus was there, that the works of God were manifest through dramatic healing. In other cases, many cases, they’re not. But the works of God can be made manifest in the way that we respond and trust God and give an example to others on how to live on a broken planet, with some resources that we have, with our connection with God the Spirit living in us, that can somehow make good out of the bad things that happen.

    Karen Pascal: It’s interesting, because as I read Undone, I found myself feeling what a valuable book for a believer facing any kind of crisis. Because we do tend to say, “God, are you mad at me? God, is this something I am supposed to triumph over?” And in it, he very honestly wrestles that through to a trust place. 

    And you help us even more with that, because you encapsule this in your own life experience right now. I’m sure you’ve asked, “What is this business of Parkinson’s, God? Are you just checking to see whether I’ll be faithful in the midst of this? Or can I handle this?” 

    There are a couple quotes I just loved from your book. I’m going to read them to you. One was when you said, “With some exceptions, those who live with pain and failure tend to be better stewards of their life circumstances than those who live with success and pleasure. Pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed.”

    Philip Yancey: I concluded that just as a journalist, Karen. I looked back over the people I’ve interviewed over the years, and some are well-known – celebrities, two presidents of the United States, football players, all sorts of people that we magazine-writers profile. And then I’ve thought of many other people I’ve interviewed. I spent years working with Dr. Paul Brand, who was a leprosy specialist. So, I’ve met many people with leprosy, this unnecessarily feared disease. But this disease that is dreaded by people who, as soon as you get the diagnosis, you think, “Well, there goes my life.” 

    And as I look back, I find that the ones that impress me most are the ones who take that difficult path that they don’t choose, but it’s given to them. Maybe it’s illness or suffering or poverty or lack of success, failure. When I get to know these people, I’m more impressed by the way they’ve become a steward of that, than the people who seem that everything works for them. Their kids are well-behaved. They never have any problems with money. 

    And actually, you see that in the Old Testament. If you chart out the kings and queen of Israel and Judah, it’s when things are going well that they forget God. They think, “Oh, we’re doing pretty well. We don’t really need God. Or, we’ll find some other gods out there.” And it’s when things are not going well, that they cry out to God. And the prophets keep saying, “They forgot God. They forgot God.” And so often, when things are going well, when we’re prosperous and everything’s going okay, who needs God? But it’s the people who are in desperate straits who cry out to God.

    And of course, Henri Nouwen, who’s always in the background as we talk, lived that out. Here he was, at the top of the success ladder, with positions at Ivy League universities and as a bestselling author, in demand as a speaker. And he gives that up to deal with people who are at the bottom of the ladder, in the L’Arche community there in the Toronto area. 

    And I remember speaking to with him and kind of presenting him as sacrifice, you know; “Oh, I’m so sorry you had to take this step, because everything was going so well for you.” And he really contradicted me. He said, “No, no. I am the one who gained from the people I’m around now. I learn about God from them. I’m not stepping down; I’m stepping up.” From the outside, everybody said, “Oh, he’s stepping down the ladder of success.” But Henri saw it differently, because he’s following the path of Jesus. And what looks like the step down is actually a step up

    Karen Pascal: Downward mobility. It’s interesting. I love the title of your last chapter in Undone. It was From Fear to Trust. And that’s so like Henri Nouwen, who calls us from fear and threat to love and trust, and they’re like two different worlds. But it’s a world one needs to enter into, to have real freedom and liberty and joy, I think.

    Philip Yancey: And health. If you live fearfully, it’s going to show itself in your body. You know, stress is one of the worst things to prevent healing. And calmness and trust and relaxing, knowing that you’ve got people around you who care and will take care of you and for you – that’s what allows you to heal. And that’s what we in the church can do for those who are going through hard times.

    Karen Pascal: Absolutely. At the close of the book, you talk about the moments of the women who find the empty tomb, and to tell others. And I’d love you to just express what you found in that, that you felt was for all of us.

    Philip Yancey: Yes. As you probably know, at the end of Mark, it kind of breaks off. And then later, most scholars would say, later they patched on another couple paragraphs to make it a little … But if you just look at the oldest manuscripts where it breaks off, it says, “They ran away on legs of fear and joy.” Wow! What a great combination! Legs of fear and joy. Fear, in the awe sense: “You know, he really was the messiah. He was dead. We saw him dead, but he’s back.” How can you respond to that except fear? “This is something I don’t know how to process. It’s huge. It’s a paradigm shift. I don’t know how to adjust.”

    And yet, the joy, because it was all good news. There’s a line from J.R.R. Tolkien in one of his books. He says, “Everything sad will become untrue.” And that’s the message of joy that we Christians have, because of the Resurrection. So, you’ve got fear and joy that seem like contradictions. But no, they both go together when we’re dealing with a God who is all-powerful and will use that power for our good to restore the world, this broken world. One of the things I love about the Christian faith is that it’s so honest about the brokenness. You don’t hear anybody saying, “Well, it’s all in your mind,” or, “There’s no such thing as suffering.” We’re honest about it. Christians wear crosses around their neck. What is that? It’s a symbol of torture. It’s a symbol of execution that we believe God’s Son went through. Why did Jesus do that? He went through it, because for some reason that was the way, the path to restoration, to get this planet back into the kind of shape that God had in mind when creating it in the first place.

    Karen Pascal: Oh, Philip, I love talking with you. It’s a great treat. I want to be sure people understand that there are two good books to consider: the one, the new version of What’s So Amazing About Grace. I went out and bought them for my grandchildren, by the way, because I think it’s a life-changing book. I think it’s a faith-building book. It’s exciting to read. It’s good. And you’ve made it so accessible. And now, the allusions within it are very current, which is really fun, too. I saw that as soon as I started reading it. It was exciting to see you’ve connected it to the world that we’re in right now, very, very well. I also want them to read Undone. I loved it. It was like it pierced my heart. And it’s that journey to go through to eventually say, “Will I trust you, God, with what you bring to my life?”

    That’s what you’re giving to us now, that you’re trusting God with what he’s brought into your life. That’s a next stage that you can’t hold back, that you just have to say, “I’m here and I have got to trust God in it.”

    Philip Yancey: Well, thank you, Karen. People ask me, “What did you do during the pandemic?” Well, I updated two books. One was 400 years old and one was 25 years old. And I tried to make them as accessible as possible. 

    And my goodness, the need for grace! I was writing about the Russia-Ukraine war when we had some millennials read the original, 25-year-old version of Grace. They would say things like, “What is Yugoslavia?” Yugoslavia was gone by the time they were born, you know. It didn’t exist anymore; became seven different countries. Which proves my point about the lack of grace, and now the new war was Russia-Ukraine. But even since then, since the book came out, now we’ve got a conflict in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians once again in just a terrible crisis. 

    So, the world is deeply divided. It’s deeply in need of grace. And because it’s so divided, there’s suffering everywhere. And I keep coming back to that, because the world doesn’t change. It’s full of suffering, and we need words of hope and of actual, practical help. And I found so much myself in John Donne, it was a privilege to try to make him more available to people who don’t have the privilege that I have of spending hours a day trying to make sense of what he was saying.

    Karen Pascal: I was privileged to have a little visit with you just a couple of weeks ago, and you asked a question which I thought was intriguing. You said you would’ve loved to have heard Henri in dialogue with other deep spiritual thinkers. And in a sense, I feel this is a dialogue with Henri that you are doing, and I want to thank you for it. And I’m curious what you would be asking Henri Nouwen today, if you had a chance to sit down and just share life at this moment.

    Philip Yancey: Well, interesting, as you mentioned that, I realized that Henri wrote a little book along the lines of John Donne after he was in an accident, I think. It was the rear-view mirror, wasn’t it, of a car that hit him and caused internal bleeding. And then he wrote, much like John Donne, the different stages he went through of loneliness, and fear, and what we all go through when we have a scary diagnosis. 

    I guess I would say to Henri: When Jesus, right before he left, he said, “It’s for your good that I’m going away.” And in essence, he was turning over the mission of God’s good news to the church. And I look at our record, and it’s a really spotty record. People don’t immediately think of the church as a place to go for comfort. They think of the church as place that judges, and that puts up barriers that you have to jump over. 

    I’ve been affected by people who are in the recovery movement, who go to 12-step programs, and that’s their kind of spirituality. And I’ll ask them, “Do you ever think of going to church?” And often they’ll say something like, “Oh, I would never go there. I mean, those are the people who have everything together. And I, you know, I still smoke cigarettes …” 

    And I say, “You know what? You got it wrong. People who go to church are the people who confess every Sunday that we don’t have it all together. That’s why we’re here.”

    And if we could just tap that hunger and that sense of incompleteness and failure that so many people have and say, “There’s good news for you. There is a God whose business is putting people back together and accepting you.” You know, that old song that used to be played at every Billy Graham rally, Just as I Am. God loves us just as we are.

    You don’t have to clean up your act to approach God. Actually, it’s people whose acts are the least clean, who were attracted to Jesus. It was the prostitutes and the tax collectors and the sinners. They sensed something about Jesus: “He’s got what I want. He’s got what I need.” And my question of Henri would be: “How did we get it so wrong? So that we’re suddenly just like another institution that judges people and ranks people, and we lose that underlying message of grace. How can we communicate in a global way?” 

    Frankly, it’s easier in places that have never heard the good news before. In North America, in Canada and the United States, we were in many ways founded by religious people. And then, after a while, it kind of hardens and it just becomes part of the landscape. But in places like Africa, stats I’ve heard is that 30,000 people per day become Christians there, because they see, through the missionary environment, that a Christian is someone who builds a clinic and an orphanage and stops sexual trafficking and digs wells and represents the God of all comfort, the Father of compassion. How can we do that in our society, where it’s not as stark a contrast? People are relatively civil and polite, and most people have their needs met, not everybody. So, how can we present the gospel as good news in a modern social environment like Canada and the United States?

    Karen Pascal: Absolutely. Thank you, thank you, Philip. It’s really been good to chat with you. I do love having this opportunity, and I know that our listeners will have enjoyed it as well. Thank you so much for your time.

    Philip Yancey: Well, bless you, Karen. You’ve been carrying on an important legacy. I have a whole shelf of books with HN on the spine, Henri Nouwen. He’s been a mentor to me, and I was privileged to meet him a few times, spend some time with him. But the great thing is that words live on, and you’ve made sure that that does live on, so people who will never get to meet him in person will get to meet him through his writings. Thank you for your work and keeping that going.

    Karen Pascal: Philip Yancey, thank you so much for being with us today on Henri Nouwen, Now and Then, and for sharing with us not only these two wonderful books, but also for sharing with us about your own, personal health battle. 

    I want to thank all of you for listening to today’s podcast. What an honor for me to spend time with Philip Yancey. He was a good friend of Henri Nouwen, and he’s the author of books like, What’s So Amazing About Grace? and Undone. I encourage you to get these books. They’ll help you thrive as a follower of Jesus, as one who has received God’s grace. 

    For more resources related to this program, click on the links on the podcast page of our website. You’ll find links to anything mentioned today, as well as book suggestions. We also post a copy of this video recording on our YouTube channel, if you’d like to watch our conversation. 

    If you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast, we’d be so grateful If you’d take time to give us a review or a thumbs-up, or pass this on to your friends and companions on the faith journey. 

    Thanks for listening. Until next time.

Praise from our podcast listeners

"A wonderful podcast that does a deep dive into Nouwen's teachings & influence on other leaders."
Matthew, Canada
"It's a great podcast - that truly pierces your heart!"
Jude, UK
"Karen Pascal does a wonderful job interviewing. There is so much to ponder after each episode."
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