June 20, 2013

Guest Post: Elizabeth Johnson on Touching the Hem

While wandering through a linky party some months back, I was introduced to Dogfur and Dandelions. I'm almost certain that the post that caught my eye in that sea of links had something to do with living with chronic illness. That day began a friendship (via technology) with Elizabeth Johnson, and I wanted to let her tell you about the book she is launching this week. (Look for a review from me next month.)

How do you respond to a life-changing illness?

I'd never thought much about it, until I was faced with the question personally in 2007. I was a recent college grad, engaged to a wonderful man, and involved in every activity possible. And then I got horribly sick, and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.

Almost a year went by before I finally ended up being admitted to the hospital, practically comatose, around 2 AM on Easter Sunday. Finally, a good team of doctors was focused on figuring out what was wrong with me. They ran tests -- MRI's, biopsies, blood-work, and I'm not sure what else -- and within a few days, they diagnosed me with a rare disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis.

Basically, my immune system went into overdrive and started attacking my body. And the treatment to fix that is a nasty combination of immuno-suppressants and corticosteroids (ie, daily chemo pills and prednisone). Some of the side effects are as bad as the initial disease!

I walked out of the hospital (or rather, rode out in a wheelchair) about a week later, overjoyed to be alive. But as I settled back at home, I realized my life would never be the same again. Wegener's is a life-long thing. It can be treated, but not cured, and can flare up at any time without warning. I could no longer work, hang out with friends, or spend much time at all expending physical or mental energy.

Life had changed, and I wasn't sure how to respond to that.

I went searching for books to help me handle things in a biblical manner, but I didn't find much. So I decided to study it out for myself.

Touching the Hem: a Biblical Response to Physical Suffering is the result of that study.

It's for all of you who have asked the same questions I did. You who have suffered, and wondered how to glorify God in your suffering. You who have feared to ask if healing was possible. You who have been overwhelmed by physical grief.

Touching the Hem begins with an overview of who God is -- because we cannot accurately interpret our circumstances, or respond to them in a correct manner, until we know and believe that He is who He claims to be. It considers His character, the names given to Him throughout Scripture, His short ministry here on earth, and His eternal works of atonement and glorification.

It then transitions from looking upward at God, to looking outward at our circumstances: Why do we face physical suffering in this world? Where does it come from? What examples do we have of those who have suffered?

Finally, it considers our personal response, based on biblical instruction. God's Word contains specific commands to remain steadfast in prayer and faith. It includes principles to follow in any circumstances, but especially in physical affliction. It even offers guidance about seeking faith healers, or attending healing services.

Touching the Hem brings all of that together in about 160 pages. It also includes practical suggestions for dealing with illness, and suggestions for further reading.

It's available from several major retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There's also a FREE study guide (PDF) available at touchingthehembook.com!

    Elizabeth Johnson
Elizabeth Johnson blogs regularly at DogFur and Dandelions, where she shares her passion for Christ-centered living and encourages others to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). A few of her favorite things are strong coffee, good friends, sound theology, long books, and mountain trails. She also loves connecting with people on Facebook and Twitter!