July 11, 2013

Book Review: Touching the Hem (A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering)

When we were expecting our first child, I also experienced my first kidney stone episode. I ended up in the hospital for about a week and began a journey of learning about medullary sponge kidney, stone removal procedures, spinal blocks, pain medication, and God's faithfulness. Almost 27 years, several hospitalizations, two more pregnancies, and innumerable stone episodes later, I'm still working on developing a biblical response to physical suffering.

So when I learned that Elizabeth Johnson of Dogfur and Dandelions was going to write this book, I was intrigued. And when the opportunity to review it came open, I jumped at the chance.

The seeds for this book were planted when Elizabeth faced her own serious illness several years ago, at a time when she was planning her wedding and a new life with her love, James. Suddenly, "the question of healing became extremely personal." Over the past six years, as Elizabeth has come to terms with her illness and its effects, her faith has driven her to God's Word to gain wisdom about dealing with daily, chronic illness and how to think about healing today. This book is the result of that study.

The book starts with a look at God's character. This is so important because, whether or not we like to admit it, pain can often lead to a questioning of God's character. Why is God allowing this? Does He love me? Is God punishing me? Does He not have enough power to change this? I appreciated the heavy dependence on Scripture rather than personal opinion or experience to sketch God's character. And even as Elizabeth encouraged ongoing Bible study to know God's character, she emphasized that a head knowledge is not enough. "Knowing and walking with Him daily teaches us His character better than anything else."

Next, the book discusses God's works, specifically through Christ. During the years of His earthly ministry, Christ did heal many of their physical ailments. Yet His ultimate purpose was that of ultimate healing -- atonement and salvation for man. Without an understanding of this, the gospel, the rest of this God's purposes (and this book) will not make sense. In this section, I especially appreciated the emphasis on using sound, contextual methods to interpret the Bible.

The book then addresses the circumstances of our suffering -- why is suffering a part of life? -- in order to lay the groundwork for the next section, which deals with our response to suffering. This section addresses the subject of healing, from scriptural principles to biblical examples to prayer and stewarding the care of our bodies. The issue of faith healers is also addressed with discernment.

It's worth noting that you can download a free study guide here. I think it would be helpful for individual or group study.

Touching the Hem's strength lies in directing us to look at the issue of physical suffering through a biblical lens. And by helping me better understand God's character and work, it has helped me be in a better position to respond biblically to my own suffering.

{If you'd like read more about the book from Elizabeth, check out her recent guest post.)

Ambassador International provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

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