Robert Kellemen has ministered as a professor, pastor, and CEO of various Christian ministries. He wrote this small book to offer hope to those who suffer, defining suffering as “getting what you do not want while wanting what you do not get” (p. 3). He believes suffering is God’s primary way of uprooting our self-reliance (p. 44), but inexplicably declares that suffering and death is covered in all but four chapters in the Bible (p. 9). This exaggeration is a clue that he will mishandle other Scriptures such as declaring that the Shunamite woman was faking when she said life was fine (p. 74), that Jacob’s encounter with God left him stronger than ever spiritually when the biblical evidence is contrary (p. 58), and using Jeremiah 29:11 out-of-context (p. 91). The author also quotes favorably some questionable sources such as mystic Dallas Willard (p. 17) and theological liberal Tony Campolo (p. 65). He speaks of experiencing the presence of God, without describing what that might feel like (p. 53), claims life is bad (p. 88), which is not Scripture’s full picture, and titles Psalm 88 as the psalm of the “dark night of the soul,” (p. 38). This phrase is drawn from St. John of the Cross who coined it to recommend that we empty ourselves of all thought and emotion in order to encounter God in a mystical union. It is often misused, as Kellemen does, to describe depression.
Kellermen’s definition of complaint calls into question the goodness of God. He writes that complaint is, “Vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering” (p. 33). Yet, the complainers found in the Psalms often relied on the goodness of God rather than questioning it. The author rightly wants to avoid simplistic platitudes (pp. 62-63) but finds it hard to do so (p. 111). And I think he swings the pendulum too far when defining waiting as “trusting God’s future provision without working to provide for oneself” (pp. 65, 68). But while there are times when no action on our part is possible, the Scriptures seldom encourage passivity. Rather we are called to do what we can while trusting God.
God’s Healing in essence takes Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief (pp. 16-17) and reframes them in biblical terminology, as well as elevating her stages to God’s standards and offering the Lord’s remedies (p. 23). Much of this is helpful. Perhaps the most valuable feature of the book are the study questions at the conclusion of most chapters. These questions comprise approximately one-third of the volume and aids the reader in thinking through and applying the principles Kellermen offers. These questions would also come in handy for the biblical counselor working with someone going through the grieving process.
I believe God’s Healing has some usefulness but it would not be at the top of my list for books on grieving and suffering.
by Robert Kellemen (Winona Lake: BMH Boo, 2010), 115 pp., hard $14.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel