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Though I am not currently experiencing a fresh trauma, I was interested in reading Jud Wilhite’s book, Torn: Trusting God When Life Leaves You in Pieces, because I saw that he diverts readers from “why” questions about their situations to “who” questions.
Almost seven years ago, my 31-year-old sister, athletic and slender, joyful and generous, died suddenly while she was on her regular brisk morning walk. She was at the top of her game, enjoying professional success and exploring new prospects, and was only eight weeks away from her wedding day. To say that her death came as a surprise grossly understates our loss; in the ensuing days, we sought to understand our grief and her absence. My experience was that asking “why” didn’t help me. A more pertinent question came to my aid, which I’ll tell about later.
In Torn, Wilhite acknowledges that sometimes our pain stems from situations that cannot be adequately explained through “why” questions. He does not downplay the pain that people feel when facing death, injury, illness, betrayal, and more; instead he reminds us that “why” questions “lead to a dark, confusing, frustrating, lonely, disconnected place…’why’ keeps you stuck in the pain and chokes out the potential to heal.” Wilhite steers readers instead to a thorough look at a series of “who” questions. Who is in control? Who is at the center of your attention – the object of your worship? Who is just? Who can mend what is broken?
Inherent in the answers to the “who” questions, according to Wilhite, is the realization that Jesus chose to suffer on our behalf, and that “he put himself in a position alongside us, identifying with us, to redeem us from our suffering.” Alongside such heroes of the faith as St. Augustine, Wilhite argues that we will suffer on this earth, and that our living a good life offers no guarantee against pain. So the final “who” question is, “Who loves you?” If you accept that the answer is God, Wilhite says, then your response, even in crisis, will be trust.
And that trust, we read in Torn, leads us to the practical questions, the “how” questions. How will we put some of the pieces back together? Wilhite asserts that living in community with others is essential. In complement to seeking out others, Wilhite suggests that waiting on God in what feels like complete radio silence develops our characters and even brings forth aspects of us that we might never let come to light otherwise. Wilhite’s last instructions to those who suffer are to fight for joy and to forgive. They won’t come all at once for most people, he argues, but pursuing small moments of joy and taking steps toward forgiveness will help restore a soul consumed by loss.
“How” was the question that I asked when my sister died. How can I get through this? How will I honor God in this pain? How can I reflect her joyous attitude toward others? How will I help others remember her? How will I best honor her memory?
In our pain, Wilhite says, we can feel lost, and “[t]he key to staying alive for those who get desperately lost is not knowing how to be found, but knowing how to survive until they are found.”
Wilhite has a winning book in Torn. I will be ready to pass it on to others I know who are hurting, and though I hope I will not have to do so for a long time, the likelihood is that all too soon, a dear friend or family member will have need of the Christian wisdom and practicality contained in this book.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but the opinions expressed here are mine. You can buy it here, or at your local bookstore.
Would you like to read Torn now? I’m giving one copy away! Please comment on this post, or on our Facebook page. I’ll close comments at midnight EST on Sunday, May 20, 2012, and announce the winner on Monday, May 21.