Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity. By Marva J. Dawn. Marva Dawn is a theologian and educator with a PhD from Notre Dame. She is a popular writer and conference speaker. She has also suffered extensively from chronic illnesses — cancer, kidney failure, loss of vision, to name a few. Actually during the writing of this book she suffered a minor stroke (TIA). She knows a lot first hand of what it is to be sick. She addresses many of the things that the ill struggle with: losses, meaninglessness, bitterness, loneliness, physical pain, unproductivity, boredom, depression, fear of dying. She treats each topic with passion and insight, blending her personal experiences with counsel from the scriptures and Christian faith. The Psalms are a favorite resource for her. She also tackles issues like false guilt and bad theology (‘God is punishing me’). She offers good theology, practical advice, and the hope that the triune God never abandons us but is always enfolding us in arms of love. Her book in a sentence can be found on p. 186: “We can entrust our lives and afflictions to the Trinity’s grace and goodness.” Always she helps people to see their personal stories in the larger context of God’s ongoing effort to redeem and reclaim all of creation. The 21 chapters are short and easy to digest. I have a feeling this is a book to return to to find counsel for a particular issue related to illness. More than anything else, this book reminded me of the importance of pastoral care. What the sick and dying need most is God, and pastors and chaplains help to mediate God’s presence to them. This book provided a good counter to my tendency to downplay my role in visiting with the sick. Not that I think visiting the sick is unimportant, but in the past I have tended to belittle my own importance in that activity. This book helped me to correct that self-perception. An excellent resource.
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