Willems writes to give Christians a new way to travel the path of their pain. Jesus is our model and Willems desires we learn to lean into the tension of pain and hope. While he informs us that in this life we will never fully overcome the pain we walk through, we can step into it and through it with Jesus. (517/3723)
Willems shares his own stories of pain. He is very expressive and descriptive and some people reading his accounts may find themselves revisiting their own painful experiences. He writes that “there is something transformational” about opening up his story to God. (487/3723) I wonder if that cathartic experience of sharing trauma was not a part of Willems' reason for writing this book.
He writes of the benefit of his own therapy and seems to be a believer in its necessity. He includes a formative exercise where he says not to reflect on traumatic memories without a therapist or trusted counselor for support. (532/3723) He also writes of Jesus going to His therapist's office often, connecting deeply with His Father. (665/3723) I found it interesting that we are not encouraged to do the same, to deeply connect with our Father. I thought Jesus' human experience and example was the point of this book.
Another aspect of Willems teaching I found puzzling was his observation after noting he was plagued with anxiety. “I'm finding that there exists a freedom through anxiety rather than a freedom from it. Jesus taught me that.” (680/3723) I thought for sure Jesus taught that we were not be anxious about any aspect of our life. (Oh, that's right, He did, in Matt. 6:25-34. He even gave us the antidote to anxiety there, seeking first the kingdom.)
I am unclear as to the audience for whom Willems wrote this book. His writing is often academic and theological in style. He does, for example, repeatedly argue that we must fully recognize the humanity of Jesus and not neglect it. He also has quite a discussion on the sovereignty of God verses free will, gives a lengthy exploration of Caesar Augustus and how he is to be understood, and explores the various meanings of baptism by the many cultures in first century world. The layperson wanting insights into dealing with their pain may skim over such material.
I think Willems' concept of Jesus as our model when experiencing pain has great potential. I am just puzzled as to how to glean life changing teaching from this book. Willems says of those reading the book hoping to find a remedy for deep pain, that is a tall order he “won't be able to fully deliver on.” (2733/3723)
You can read a sample here.
You can watch the book trailer here.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Kurt Willems is the founding pastor of Pangea Church. A blogger, podcaster, and speaker, he maintains the resource website TheologyCurator, also the name of the podcast he hosts. He has an M.Div. from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and a master's in comparative religion from the University of Washington. He and his wife have two daughters and live in Seattle, Washington.
WaterBrook, 256 pages.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)