Friday, July 12, 2013

Touching the Hem

As a Christian, do you ever wonder what your response to affliction and physical suffering should be?  Do you ever find yourself questioning how a loving God could cause suffering through chronic pain or illness and not be healed, especially when you have been fervently praying for relief and healing?  Blogger and author Elizabeth Johnson has written a book entitled Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering in which she guides the reader through a study of who God is and what the Bible says about suffering and healing. 



I was honored when Elizabeth, a fellow blogger, asked me if I would be willing to read her book and review it on my blog.  Ambassador International, her publisher, furnished me with a copy of Touching the Hem for this purpose.  We all face our challenges in life.  I have faced several.  Being diagnosed with a life-altering chronic medical condition is not one of those challenges.  That said, at the time I agreed to review this book I was at my daughter's bedside on day thirty-six of a forty day hospital stay which culminate in her passing away just eleven days short of her seventh birthday after a life spent with chronic medical issues and physical suffering.

Having experienced years of my daughter's own physical suffering as both her mother and caregiver, I spent a great deal of time and energy wondering if her healing was possible here on this earth.  I prayed fervently for her healing.  I realize full well as I write this that she has indeed been healed and that she is enjoying the full glory of God in His kingdom.  She is in a new glorified body and I believe that she has been fully healed beyond all I could ever ask or imagine.  But she is not with me here on this earth.  I believe this because I have faith and because I trust in the promises of God that are shared in the Bible - His Word which is the truth - "the standard of truth by which everything must be measured."  (Touching the Hem, p 11)

The very title of book, Touching the Hem, comes from the well known story in the book of Mark wherein a woman suffering from twelve years of bleeding hears of Jesus' arrival and makes her way through the crowds simply to touch the hem of his garment that she might be healed.  It is a beautiful story of stepping out in faith and of the Lord's compassion and mercy.  She is healed from her affliction because of her faith.
Her heart-rending journey from utter loss to triumph, just through a simple act of faith! This woman had nothing to speak of – no health, no resources, no social network, no standing in the community – and yet, when she reached out in faith to the Great Physician, she received all those things back in multiplied ways! Her body was instantly healed, her physical well-being restored, she was acknowledged by Christ in front of multitudes, her story recorded for all time in God’s Word… all because she chose to place her confidence in God! - Elizabeth A. Johnson
What I love about this book is that Elizabeth does not simply share biblical references on how God has exhibited His healing powers.  She sets up these stories of healing by first taking a look at the attributes of God Himself.  We must understand who God is in order that we might understand healing.  What I have learned through personal experience is that healing is not always what we envision it to be.  The answers to our prayers are not always in the way we expect.  We must understand that it is God who is in control of everything.  

Touching the Hem is broken down into five parts, the first of which examines God's character: His immutability and faithfulness; His knowledge and wisdom; God's goodness; God's sovereignty; and the very names of God.  Throughout this examination, Elizabeth utilizes Scripture (King James Version) as support.  Her points are beautifully illustrated through the supportive Biblical references given throughout the book.

The second part of the book examines God's work here on earth.  Elizabeth is careful to give examples throughout the Bible where healing from affliction did in fact occur.  She also cites stories where God chose not to heal.  At least not in the way we might see it.  Chapter 10 is regarding the Promise of Glorification.  It is through our faith that we believe that our physical bodies will one day cease to exist, but we are promised an eternity which is free from suffering.

Parts three and four of Touching the Hem examine our circumstances as well as our response to healing.  We were never promised a life without suffering.  In fact, John 16:33 states:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
We are going to face trials in this life.  We will face affliction and suffering in one form or another.  That is certain.  Elizabeth shares the command we have been given to pray.  Pray fervently.  Pray unceasingly.  Faith alone is not enough.  We must be in prayer - in constant communication with God.

The fifth and final part of the book looks at God's response to healing.  He heals.  He heals in His own timing.  He may not respond in the way that we are anticipating, but it is God who knows what is best for us and He response to our cries and prayers in the way that He deems best for us.  The conclusion of Touching the Hem left me with tears in my eyes.  Elizabeth does a beautiful job expressing what a lack of healing may mean.  She states:
Not to compare my influence and effectiveness with theirs, but I have also experienced opportunities to minister, which would not have existed if God had spared me from sickness or healed me in the hospital.
This is precisely how I feel regarding my own experience with my daughter's nearly seven years of affliction and suffering.  I love Elizabeth's confirmation that our life circumstances do not have to be all about the illness or suffering.  We can use our circumstances as opportunities to minister to countless people who may be in need of hearing from God through you.

Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering is a beautiful and skillfully written look at how Christians can respond to their challenges.  
Touching the Hem is for anyone who’s ever faced suffering, and wondered how to respond to it! It’s focused on those with physical afflictions, but it’s relevant to any Christian who cares about responding to suffering in a biblical manner. And it’s also for anyone who cares about helping others through suffering, who might be in the position to counsel someone else or at least encourage them through their affliction. - Elizabeth A. Johnson
I am so proud of Elizabeth on the publication of her book.  I truly enjoyed reading it and believe it to be a book which I will refer back to often as I walk through the journey I am on dealing with my daughter's passing.  I would highly recommend Touching the Hem to anyone who is experiencing a chronic illness, a debilitating disease, or to anyone who is a caregiver for or close to someone afflicted in some way.  As someone coping with a significant loss, I would also recommend it to anyone who may have experienced a loss and may be having a difficult time understanding why it appears that God chooses to heal some and not others.  I believe there is so much hope packed into this book!

If you are interested in digging deeper into this topic, you can visit Touching the Hem and download a study guide absolutely FREE.  You can do so by going HERE.  Amazon has the paperback edition listed for $10.79 and the Kindle version for only $2.99!

For more about Touching the Hem, visit TouchingtheHemBook.com. And feel free to contact Elizabeth at elizabethj@touchingthehembook.com! Also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

{Note: I was contacted by Ambassador International to review the book "Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering" by Elizabeth Johnson.  I received one copy of this book as compensation in exchange for my review.  The opinions expressed are strictly my own.}

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