I got an incredibly humbling email from a wonderful therapist who read my book on persevering through pain and used it for a book club with other therapists. She also shared her journey through some very hard times. I wept reading her email, both tears of sorrow and joy. With her permission, I now share her testimony with you.
First of all, our little book club of therapists absolutely loved the book, and it sparked some really great conversations for application of theology and suffering, especially when so much of our job deals with pain. I’ve definitely had more than one conversation with my kid clients who want to know where God was during their trauma, or worse, dealing with statements like “God made me get raped to make me stronger”.
Second of all, I wanted to contact you because on a personal note this book was so much more than simply a really fantastic book club read.
I started reading your blog a few years ago when you had first started. I had somehow stumbled across your blog on tumblr, and had been intrigued by the authenticity I hadn’t found in church. I grew up in the church, and also grew up with a long term childhood trauma history. A lot of the Bible verses ended up shaming me, and a lot of my perceptions about how God felt about me connected with how my parents treated me. I had a lot of confusion around God and why so many Bible verses weren’t true for me, what was wrong with me that God didn’t heal or help me, etc. I grew up in New York, which isn’t exactly the most Christian of places, so my parents put me in a small Christian school.
On the last day of my eleventh grade school year the pastor of our church/school announced that he was closing down the school so that he could afford to keep his tv ministry going instead … The youth group began to divide, people left the church, and a lot of hatred broke out. I went to the only other Christian school in the area, our arch rival, and it seemed that everything fell apart. My senior year I was benched in my favorite sport for being from my old school, I struggled to fit in with cliques of people who had been in such a small school together for so long, my boyfriend broke up with me, I grew apart from everyone from my old school, my parents bought their own business which tanked shortly after, I bombed my SAT test, my youth pastor was arrested for having multiple sexual accounts with a 15 year old, the one youth group leader who I was close to left the church immediately following the youth group leaders arrest and cut off all contact completely, I was unable to complete the music class I would need to do the music program … my grandma became very mentally ill in a way that was more confusing than anything because she went from being a super Christian to a super atheist and super mean, I felt sick all the time not realizing that I was sick with anxiety and panic attacks, and my way of coping with it all became self harm.
So I went to college partially hoping to outrun some of the pain. Naturally, it didn’t work, and after being ridiculed about my weight (which was a completely healthy and average weight) in front of my family and large extended family of 26 first cousins and 8 aunts and uncles, I developed an eating disorder. The next four years of college were spent in and out of treatment centers, saying prayer after prayer, writing journal after journal, attending churches and chapels and bible studies, begging God to help me, and feeling entirely distant from Him. By the time I hit my senior year of college, I had completely given up on the idea of a God who loved me and no longer considered myself to be a Christian.
After being referred out of therapy to do specific trauma work, I found myself accidentally stumbling into a Christian counseling center to see one of the few therapists within my insurance network who worked with eating disorders. I was furious and upset, but looking back I couldn’t be more grateful. I had seen other Christian counselors before, but this one in particular really helped me to heal and work through issues of my past. I got to a point where I was able to recognize that maybe God did love me, and maybe my childhood muddled up an image of God that wasn’t accurate, and maybe I was viewing God the way I viewed my parents.
So here’s where your book comes in. Therapy was great, and it did a lot of necessary healing in my life, but I still had many questions and many doubts. Things still didn’t make sense for me, and everything surrounding God felt a lot like a big maybe.
Reading “Mad About God” answered so many of my questions, and made sense of how to be okay with the idea that things will not always make sense. For the first time in years, I truly felt at peace with God. I truly felt at peace with a theology of suffering. With recognizing that God is truly with me in the pain and suffering. It was the first time I was hearing someone confronting difficult questions with pure honesty and integrity. It was the first time someone was willing to get into the messy parts of suffering and challenge the common notion of simplified answers and feel good Bible verses.
Having read your book, I have made my way back to church, and I can sit through a service without feeling cynical and hateful. I can sit in a church and feel hopeful, that even though God doesn’t always feel close and things don’t always seem perfect, and some Christians still do awful things, there is still hope.
I don’t think words can truly thank you enough for being obedient to Gods call to write this book. I cant thank you enough for how your words have truly impacted me. Thank you for not sugar coating the truth. Thank you for being willing to be honest in ways that so few are. For being vulnerable and admitting your own faults. For being willing to admit when you know, instead of making up fluff to fill the pages. For speaking the truth, and for not hiding the ugly parts of Christianity, but embracing it and seeing it as it is. Thank you for diving into the scriptures and making sense of them. Thank you for writing in a way that is so easy to read and speaks on such a personal level.
I’m sure you get some negative feedback on your blog, a lot of difficult questions, and a lot of really sad stories. But I wanted to be sure that I got to tell you an encouraging one. It’s easy to forget to thank people when things are going well. Unfortunately as a therapist this rings true quite often–when people are doing well they don’t come back to see us.
I just wanted to say thank you, for all that you do. Your writing is a constant source of encouragement. You have been a huge part of my healing journey and I am grateful for you.