The Wounded Christian – love letter to a broken child of God – Book Review

The wounded Christian is a book by John Piper, no not THAT John Piper, but by another Christian with the same name although also based in the States. This John Piper is originally from the UK and as a child experienced a strong calling to serve God on the mission field. In his case, his eventual ministry was with an aviation mission. He would have loved to have been a pilot but this was ruled out to health issues (asthma), something I can relate to but he and his wife eventually went to Keny where he served as an engineer.

Unfortunately, John’s  time on the mission field was curtained by severe ill health. This was later traced to a medical condition that had caused chronic fatigue. Yet for a long period of time he was treated with suspicion. It was assumed that the problem was either all in his head or that he was lying and being lazy.  Getting a correct diagnosis was essential to his healing but from a human perspective may seem to have come far too late.

This book is his letter to other Christians who may have been wounded in ministry, especially those who feel that they have failed. It is intended to be a book that will speak to men.  Piper speaks with raw honesty about his own experience.  The book raises some challenges about preparation for ministry, especially cross-cultural ministry and ensuring that missionaries are ready and equipped for what they will face (the same is true for pastors working in the UK and US too). It also challenges our attitude to weakness and failure.  Are we quick to judge, jump to conclusions and desert or will we stand with others. John suggests that Christians aren’t too good at standing with weak and injured Christians because it brings home all too painfully our own fragility.

He also helpfully deals with the problem of out of context Bible verses, in particular, Jeremiah 29:11

“11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

This verse is often given to people to encourage them but can in fact discourage if they don’t experience that prospering and hope now. Yet it was given to the people of Israel in the context of a coming lengthy stay in the land of Babylon.

A significant part of the book is about healing. This includes an honest and challenge look at how sin can play a part in our wounding or in our response to it, especially through anger and bitterness.  At the same time he is insistent that we should beware “Job’s comforters” coming to tell us that we are where we are purely and directly because of punishment.  He also points to how the very people who had given Job bad advise and discouraged him were directed to him for intercession. Forgiveness therefore plays a crucial part in healing. As well as recognising where we need forgiveness, there is the need to forgive others who have let us down too.

If I were to challenge on one thing it would be this. I tell people who have experienced physical injury and illness that full healing may only be experienced in eternity.  Whilst John emphasises that healing takes time I don’t think he quite allows for this, that emotional healing may also be something we only truly discover when we see Christ face to face (this is  specific theme I want to return to some time).

Overall, the book is warm, practical, Biblical and helpful to those who have experienced wounding in the battle and also for those seeking to walk alongside them.  It is available on kindle at the bargain price of £2.15 and as a paperback for £5.03. 

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