A Modern Paraphrase of John Donne’s Devotions

In 2020, as the world entered a long dark night of the soul, I returned to a nearly 400-year-old manuscript for guidance.  In it, I found a trustworthy companion for living through a pandemic ̶ or any other crisis.  The words leaped out at me from the very first page of John Donne’s Devotions…nothing had prepared me for his raw account of confrontations with God.

Preacher and poet John Donne wrote Devotions in 1623, during a pandemic in his city of London.  For a month he lay sick, hearing the church bell toll for others while wondering if his death would be next. From what he believed to be his death bed, the great poet wrote a triumph of literature that has given us such familiar phrases as “No man is an island…” and “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls…” I pared the descriptions of antiquated science and medicine, and streamlined Donne’s complicated syntax (one sentence alone had 234 words!). I believe this paraphrase of a great work has much to say to us today.

This new version of a classic work is arranged as a 30-day reader based on Donne’s meditations, with startling relevance as we face similar questions:

  • What is God trying to tell us?
  • Does God use illness as punishment?
  • How do I find peace and comfort?

A Companion in Crisis combines Donne’s timeless reflections with present-day commentary, offering universal truths on how to live and die well.
(Illumify Media, 2021)

Endorsements and Honors

“Thanks so much for taking the time to do this paraphrase, thereby making Donne accessible to many of us who otherwise would not have had the time, patience, or inclination to seek him out.”
Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Director, American Association for the Advancement of Science; NASA astrophysicist

“You have made Donne far more readable, without losing his voice. As you say, Donne’s reflections are tremendously relevant with our pandemic.”
Bob Fryling, Former publisher of IVPress

“It’s amazing we have Donne’s words that he thought would be his last as he heard the sounds of death around him.  To me, it’s a great service to make this accessible, for the vast majority of readers now would never get into it.”
Harold Myra, Author, Former CEO of Christianity Today

“Yancey writes, ‘In an act of either daring or folly, I decided to attempt a modern paraphrase of this classic work.’ How glad we can be that he did. … With Yancey’s adapting of phrases and trimming away of antiquated turns of expression, I’ve been able to grasp more surely the raw intensity of Donne’s prayers, the struggles and protests of his soul, and ultimately the radiant steadiness of the Renaissance cleric’s abiding faith.”
The Rev. Timothy Jones, Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church (VA) and author of more than a dozen books on prayer and the spiritual life, including The Art of Prayer: A Simple Guide to Conversation with God.  (From review published here: https://livingchurch.org/2021/06/18/john-donne-redone)




With the release of Philip’s memoir, Where the Light Fell, only a couple weeks away, his publishers are thrilled to offer you a bonus!  A digital copy of this new devotional from Philip Yancey, A Companion in Crisis, is yours FREE when you preorder Where the Light Fell.

Adapted from the writings of John Donne, this 30-day devotional directly addresses questions raised by the pandemic.

We trust it will bring comfort and hope as you wait for your copy of Where the Light Fell to arrive in October.


• Preorder Where the Light Fell at any US retailer.
• After purchase, fill out the form at this link: YANCEY BONUS
• Watch your email.  You will receive a message within 24 hours with your digital edition of A Companion in Crisis.  (Just click DOWNLOAD to save as a PDF file.)


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