Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

At the age of 26, Katherine Wolf’s life changed forever.  She suffered a stroke caused by a congenital malformation in her brain (AVM).  Afterwards part of her face was paralyzed, and she couldn’t walk or eat.  In this book, she and her husband, Jay, recount their journey from tragedy to healing.  And no, Katherine is never completely healed physically, but mentally and emotionally she is whole.

In time the Wolfs begin to redefine Katherine’s disability as a gift and a calling.  As writers and speakers they encourage others who have suffered — and by the way, that’s all of us, because we all have “invisible wheelchairs” — limitations caused by the events and circumstances of our lives.

Some of the topics discussed are trauma, loss, failure, true beauty, community, marriage, post traumatic stress and post traumatic growth.  Every reader will find something with which they identify.  Katherine and Jay explain how, despite suffering, we can each flourish, celebrate life and make a contribution to God’s plan.  According to Katherine:

“There’s a path that may not be easy, but it’s one laid out just for us.”

VERDICT:  5 stars.  It was a quick but meaty read.  It made me want to read their first book — Hope Heals

By the way, the forward to the book was written by Louie Giglio, who is now the Wolfs’ pastor.  If you would like to see a review of a book he has written, follow this link:

Not Forsaken by Louie Giglio–Book Review

What God Has Done

“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away saying ‘Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.’…”Luke 8:38-39

This was part of our Bible study on the book of Luke this week.  After Jesus healed a demon possessed man, he in effect, sent him back to his home to become a missionary.  He didn’t have any extensive instruction or education.  All he had to do was tell others what Jesus had done for him. It reminds me of another similar story in the book of John.  Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth.  The man is brought to the Pharisees who try to manipulate him into saying that Jesus is a sinner. Exasperated he tells them,

“…One thing I do know;  that though I was blind, now I see.”  John 9:25

As witnesses, all we need to do is tell about our own life and how Jesus has changed it.  We don’t have to be eloquent or persuasive.  We don’t have to worry about the outcome;  that’s up to God.  We just have to state the  facts about God’s action in our life; and it can be as simple as this:  “I was blind and now I see”.


Weak and Waiting

“Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?”  Jeremiah 8:22

My husband was sick recently with what turned out to be a pretty serious infection (diverticulitis).  Like many of us do, he waited until the pain was quite bad before he went to the doctor.  He kept hoping it would just go away if he ignored it long enough.  He didn’t want to spend the money or take time out of his busy schedule. At the doctor’s office  he was given a course of antibiotics which he began taking right away.  Then he anxiously waited for the pain to subside.  Thankfully within a few days it did.  I’m sure he wishes he had visited the physician sooner.  Now if he follows a different diet, he hopes to stay well.  But if the pain comes back, he’ll know what to do — get to the doctor quickly.

Where is all this going?  Well, this reminds me of the sin-sickness from which we all suffer.  We try to ignore it.  Pretend it’s not there at all, or that it’s something we can live with.  We don’t want to interrupt our lives by going to God.  We don’t want to admit He deserves our time, talent and money.  We’re selfish and want to keep going in the familiar (sinful) way we’ve become accustomed to.

For some of us the pain finally gets so bad we give in.  We turn our problems over to God.  We confess our sins and trust that Jesus will cleanse and restore us.  Wow, what a relief!  The love and peace we receive is so amazing, we can’t understand what was keeping us away before.  With a proper diet (regular worship, the sacraments, study of God’s word) we won’t have to find ourselves in that miserable situation again.  We know what to do.

There is a balm in Gilead.  Something that will make us strong and healthy again.  Why wait?



The Real Love Story

Maybe if you’re my age you remember a film called Love Story.  It popularized the phrase, love means you never have to say you’re sorry.  It sounds good, I guess.  Romantic somehow.  I think it’s meant to convey the idea that if we love someone enough, if we understand them completely, we won’t need an apology to feel their remorse.  Unfortunately it’s not true.  Most of us know from personal experience that failure to apologize for hurting someone leads to further hurt and maybe even a relationship that is completely broken.

The greatest love story of all time is the story of God’s love for His people as recorded in the Bible.  All human love is a reflection of that first love.  Listen to what God says to us about saying you’re sorry:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

Some may take this legalistically, turning it into a rule that says we must search and search our life, notice and remember every sin we’ve ever committed and list them out and confess them, in order to appease God’s wrath.  But this isn’t true. He knows we can’t confess every wrong doing because there are so many we commit without even realizing it. Sin is our default setting. God doesn’t tell us to confess to punish us, or make us feel bad.  He wants us to realize we are sinners and confess, so that we can experience His forgiveness and feel better.  Listen to what David says in Psalm 51 after his confession of adultery with Bathsheba:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Not confessing our sins leads to separation from God and others.  Confessing heals and restores.  It’s good for the soul.





Prayer Works

In the most widely publicized studies of the effect of intercessory prayer, cardiologist Randolph Byrd studied 393 patients admitted to the coronary-care unit at San Francisco General Hospital. Some were prayed for by home-prayer groups, others were not. All the men and women got medical care. In this randomized, double-blind study, neither the doctors and nurses nor the patients knew who would be the object of prayer.

The results were dramatic and surprised many scientists. The men and women whose medical care was supplemented with prayer needed fewer drugs and spent less time on ventilators. They also fared better overall than their counterparts who received medical care but nothing more. The prayed-for patients were: Significantly less likely to require antibiotics (3 patients versus 16) Significantly less likely to develop pulmonary edema-a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid because the heart cannot pump properly (6 versus 18). Significantly less likely to require insertion of a tube into the throat to assist breathing (0 versus 12). Less likely to die.

Before I retired I worked for a hospital, and we actually had an employee program where a doctor spoke to us about the beneficial effects of prayer.   He cited studies such as the one mentioned above and  he prayed with his patients.

What do you think about this study?  Does prayer work?