Endearing Pain: Life Lessons from MS Afflictions
By Colleen Peters
Wipf & Stock, 2016
Why God? Suffering Through Cancer into Faith
By Margaret Carlisle Cupit and Edward Henderson
Wipf & Stock, 2015
Suffering and faith have been the subject of literature since the Book of Job in the Bible. Such literature seeks to explore the questions that arise in times of suffering. Does God cause suffering? How does it affect our faith? Can anything good come out of suffering?
Two books were published recently dealing with these topics: Endearing Pain by Colleen Peters and Why God? by Margaret Carlisle Cupit and Edward Henderson. In 2006, Colleen Peters was diagnosed with progressive, relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) and began a journey of pain and decline. In 2010, Maggie Cupit was diagnosed with cancer in her leg and began a journey of chemotherapy and surgery. The experiences of both women were very painful—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Both had the love and support of family, medical professionals and friends, but they also endured feelings of isolation because of not being able to participate fully in the life they had before diagnosis. In an attempt to keep friends and family informed, they both journaled or blogged updates on treatment and progress. They also shared their struggles with God about this course of events: Why is this happening to me? How can this be fixed? And, where is God in all of this?
Colleen Peters’ book is the publication of her letters and updates. When Colleen was diagnosed, she was already a faithful Christian. She had a family and worked as a teacher. Her life changed when surgery revealed that she had MS. She says, “I faced great fear and found Jesus waiting to walk through it with me” (p. 26). She also shares the encouragement she gleaned from other spiritual writers. Pain often brings out the best in people along with the worst, but in the midst of the pain, Colleen learned to pay attention to the little joys in life surrounding her every day. Colleen says, “God is healing me…the healing isn’t physical, but is targeting more important matters of the mind and heart” (p. 82).
Maggie’s book is a compilation of her journal entries and reflections, emails and comments by her grandfather, Edward Henderson, who is a philosophy of religion teacher. Maggie was a first-year college student when she was diagnosed. Her treatment was a yearlong journey of terrible suffering, but also joy and faith.
Maggie was born into a Christian family, but struggled with her faith. When she was diagnosed, it set her on a real quest for answers, which Henderson’s comments address. Maggie reflects that she could have given up on God, but with the help of many people, she came through the cancer having gained courage, hope and a faith that gives “the experience of the-good-no-matter-what and of joy even in the middle of life’s pains and anguish” (p. 130).
Endearing Pain is an inspiring spiritual journal that offers hope in the midst of daily struggles. Why God? gets bogged down by the philosophical, case-study style of Henderson’s comments, but the book is redeemed by Maggie’s voice. Both bear witness to the presence of a loving God in the midst of suffering.