HE RESTORES MY SOUL: Writings on Cross and Comfort
HE RESTORES MY SOUL: Writings on Cross and Comfort. Edited by Katie Schuermann. Ft. Wayne: Emmanuel Press, 2018. 170 pages. $18.00.
He Restores My Soul is a book that is comprised of various essays exploring a life of suffering while trying—in great weakness—to keep the good confession of faith. Essays range from the struggle of same-sex attraction to the difficulty of watching one’s child suffer immense chronic pain, and everything in between.
Like many of the Psalms of lament, these vignettes do not conclude with a rosy resolution. Chronic illnesses are left un-remedied, sick children do not get better, mental illness does not go away, mom’s dementia corrodes cogency, and alcoholics don’t suddenly put down the bottle. The “closure” that the world so desperately wants is not found in these pages, but these pages point to it.
The resolution to such pain and suffering cannot be found in a pill, in a diagnosis, or in a coincidental string of good fortune. The only “closure” or “resolution” to be found is found in Jesus Christ, and while He tarries in His return—His people on earth suffer.
This is what the women of this book speak to. They do so honestly and helpfully.
Their conversations (essays) are not trite. They are raw. They hurt to read, but they are not absent hope, for they confess Christ and their witness encourages us to do the same.
I’ll confess that while reading the book, I couldn’t help but think how wonderfully and inexplicably blessed I am. The suffering of these pages are foreign to me in my life. I’m not without my sorrows, but nothing to the degree of these women. Oftentimes I was misty-eyed reading their stories, and then with shame I looked at my own discontent, impatience, and pervasive ingratitude to God my Father. After such reflection I found myself looking again to God and all His grace in Christ. Any book that can do that can count itself a success.
One of the great strengths of this book is that it exposes idols. Suffering is particularly adept at this. While it is godly to love your children, it is ungodly to put your identity in them. While it pleasing to desire God’s gift of marriage, it is displeasing to God to view marriage as a panacea. While it is acceptable to desire the gift of good health in order to serve one’s neighbor, it is unacceptable to presume to know better than God when such a gift is withheld.
When idols are exposed, we flinch. When they come crashing down, we feel like we’re dying—because we are. We die. When our idols fall we die to sin. And dying hurts. This daily dying is part and parcel of our baptismal identity, and the women who authored these essays are far more eloquent in displaying these realities than I am in this review.
He Restores My Soul is a book that follows on the heels of He Remembers the Barren. It has an eye toward “broaden[ing] the discussion of suffering in the Church” (170). On this account, the book succeeds at every level, for each essay tackles a different cause of suffering, not just the suffering of barrenness. While the modes of suffering are different, the solution to them is not.
The book includes study questions in the back to aid group discussion, as well as a section that allows you to “Meet the Authors.” There is also a page about the artist who was commissioned to create this book’s cover. All these features bolster an already well-assembled book.
I recommend this book to anybody who is looking for a faithful treatment of the problem of suffering. For pastors, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this book’s contents. You may find a particular essay helpful and worthy of commendation to those under your care who are suffering from similar situations.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Milbank, SD.