A Conversation with author Philip Yancey

By Caroline Beidler

On one bright summer afternoon, after a couple of days drug binge, my boyfriend at the time and I were driving around. All I had strength for was the slow inhale of menthol cigarettes and staring out the window. I was nauseous, every muscle screaming, my head pulsating with sharp stabs of pain. My nose was raw and red. My baggy flannel was stained by nose bleeds.

After realizing we weren’t going to get any more drugs, I held back as long as I could and then watched in the passenger mirror as tears and cigarette smoke mixed with snot and my shoulders bobbed up and down with quiet sobs. I looked into the clouds, cursing the sun that mocked me with its beauty. How can there be a God, I remember thinking, when I feel like this?

Using alcohol and other drugs

When I was sixteen years old, I spent most of my time getting high. Trying anything to bring my body back to equilibrium. It stopped being “fun” and turned into need. I needed to use in order to feel normal. What I didn’t know at that time was that my entire system was regularly flushed with cortisol because of the trauma I’d experienced. I was anxious and fearful and the only coping strategy I had was self-medicating. Using alcohol and other drugs was a way to run from my pain. 

We pulled up to a stop light and I looked to my right. A family stopped next to us in a mini-van. The woman was laughing. I saw the outline of car seats in the back, with bobbling legs and small, blonde heads. Kids were dancing and I could faintly hear singing. All at once, my cheeks flushed red and I turned my attention towards God:

“If you are really here, I wouldn’t feel like this!”

Silence.

“I could stop.” 

We pulled away from the red light and I trailed the silver mini-van with my tear-stained gaze as it sped ahead. I imagined the family getting to their destination, a pristine house in the suburbs. I continued my interrogation: 

“If there is a God, why am I in so much pain?”

No answer.

“God?!?”

Nothing. 

How do I reconcile a loving God with a hurting world? 

In Disappointment with God, spiritual writer and journalist Philip Yancey asks what my sixteen-year-old self grappled with during excruciating years of drug use, sexual violence, and addiction: “if God has the ability to act fairly, speak audibly, and appear visibly, why, then, does he seem so reluctant to intervene today?” If God is so good, then why is the world aching? Why am I in so much pain? How do I reconcile a loving God with a hurting world? 

Over time because of guides like Philip Yancey, other addiction recovery supports, and God himself, I have been able to look back at tough events in my life: trauma, sexual violence, and addiction, with grace—even acceptance. Struggle might be a part of my story, of all of our stories, but it’s not the only chapter. In his writings, Philip Yancey shows me that with doubt, can come a new faithful beginning. With pain and hurt, redemption. God’s world can become, regardless of our experiences, “a gift to enjoy with grace-healed eyes.”  

Want to hear more? Check out my interview with Philip Yancey here: https://www.brightstoryshine.com/listen

Author

Caroline Beidler, MSW is an author, recovery advocate and founder of the storytelling platform Bright Story Shine. Her new book Downstairs Church: Finding Hope in the Grit of Addiction and Trauma Recovery is available anywhere you buy books. With almost 20 years in leadership within social work and ministry, she is a team writer for the Grit and Grace Project and blogger at the global recovery platform In the Rooms. Caroline lives in Tennessee with her husband and twins where she enjoys hiking in the mountains and building up her community’s local recovery ministry. Connect with her @carolinebeidler_official and https://www.facebook.com/carolinebeidlermsw

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