This is the brief talk I gave last night an introduction to the chapters I contributed to He Restores My Soul, a book authored with several writers including the lovely women pictured below at our book signing:
There is a Latin word to explain the theme of our book: tentatio. Tentatio: Wrapped in trial and temptation, suffering and affliction, the crosses we bear – and the crosses we cause offers – tentatio is an agonizing internal struggle. From the Latin tentatio comes our English word “tension,” but this is a little too mild. Tentatio can make us doubt, faint, grow weary, or despair.
However if you look at the peaceful cover of this book, you can tell that despair is not necessary. In fact, we believe that through tentatio God drives us to know our frailty and face our helplessness that we may turn to Him. The psalmist writes, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 199:71). Isaiah says, “For agonizing struggle alone teaches one to acknowledge the Word” (Isaiah 28:19).
Each of us who shares our own trials in this book does so not to burden you, the reader, but to share the sorrow we all carry as Christians knowing that this is simply the normal Christian life — the theology of the cross. We remind ourselves as well as our readers that through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Good Shepherd, our Savior Jesus Christ, our souls are restored, our sins are forgiven, our burdens are His, His righteousness is ours, and we have new life in His name.
I wrote two chapters for this book. One is about the burden of loving someone who has fallen away from the faith. How terrifying that feels, how frustrating. What can we do? Where must we turn? Each chapter in our book leans on the promises of Psalm 23, and the verse for this chapter is “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
The other chapter is about the burden I bear with and alongside our adopted twins. A boy and a girl, they came to us as babies, and they both battle mental illness: mood instability, hallucinations, and the cognitive and social effects due to schizophrenia. Much could be said about this, and whether bipolar, anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia, mental illness seems to be a neglected topic in the church. My daughter writes poetry to soothe her soul. The verse for this chapter is “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2).
The burdens you will hear tonight from all of us who contributed, and the burdens you will read in the pages of this book, may not be your exact trials, but we know that you have trials. Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Psalm 16:33). In Isaiah we read, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 20:29).
I mentioned that my daughter, despite her schizophrenia, writes poetry. She shares a poem with you tonight in keeping with tentatio. She calls it “The Ballad of the Suffering One.”
Ballad of the Suffering One
Little Beth lies all alone, on her bed awake. / Prayerful minded, “God alone, Jesus for my sake; / Thou wilt save me, God most high, From all without, within. / My darkest, most depressing thoughts, All I ever did….”
Through the night, I mourn, I weep. / “Jesus, answer; care.” / Daylight shall be gone to grave, Jesus still is there. / Though I lie and some may place stones atop my head, / Jesus answers yet again. Jesus answers prayer.
“At your portal, at your door, I am listening. / I hear your cry; I hear your plea. / With light and airy footsteps tread, gladly follow Me.” / At the throne, before the Lamb My journey here be done.
He looks me up, he looks me down, Says “Unto Me, child come. / Fellow sufferer,” He says, “I bid thee, welcome Home.” / So here I am, and here I’ll stay, Within the court of God’s own Lamb. / At His table He has called me to Himself again.
He picks me up; He cradles me. In His tender arms, / He brings me home; He makes me His, / the Sufferer for the suffering one.*
No matter your burdens — the ones you bear for a short time or the ones you bear every day — we pray that you will find peace and hope, joy and comfort, even in tentatio, as you read of the One who does indeed restore our souls.
+ + +
October 25, 2018
He Restores My Soul book signing
Village Lutheran Church in Ladue, Missouri
*Swope, Michelle. Through Time’s Looking Glass: A Book of Poetry (Memoria Press)
Top left to right: Katie Schuermann, Cheryl Magness, Heidi Sias
Bottom left to right: Cheryl Swope, Heather Smith
authors from He Restores My Soul (Emmanuel Press, 2018)
Read the full story about Cheryl’s children in Simply Classical.