Being Well When We’re Ill

Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity
Marva J. Dawn
Augsburg Books
Published in 2008

Review by Kelly Stern

Over the last twenty years, I’ve started to read several books on physical suffering, but this book by Marva Dawn is the only one I’ve finished.  I highly recommend it for two reasons. One is that Marva Dawn knows suffering. She has had far more serious physical ailments than I’ve suffered with my chronic muscle disease. Marva knows pain and disability from the inside. The second reason is that she is a theologian. The Bible has been her textbook on suffering and the Triune God has been her guide. Her life and her theology give me hope that I really can be well even when I’m ill.

Each of the twenty-one chapters in Being Well When We’re Ill begins with a passage of Scripture and ends with a prayer. The pages in between are full of Marva Dawn’s losses and her finds. For example, part of Marva’s suffering results from being physically crippled eighteen years ago by the misdiagnosis of a break in her left leg, As she tried to make sense of her loss, she came to understand that “the harder we try intellectually to create some meaning, the more emotionally exhausted we become because our desire is set on making sense.” She goes on to explain that the search for meaning “escalates the spiritual danger because the more we long to make sense of things the more our desire is for meaning rather than for God in all God’s mystery”. Rather than asking “Why?” Marva has learned to ask “What is God doing in the midst of this?” and “Where do I catch glimpses of the Trinity’s grace?”

I have caught many glimpses of the grace of God in the pages of Marva Dawn’s book. I believe this title will not only help those who suffer, but the loved ones and even the professionals who care for them.


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