Book Review: Anne Graham Lotz’s Wounded By God’s People

I wish I’d read this book ignorant of who its author was.

That is not to say I dislike Anne Graham Lotz.  I actually like her a great deal: she is frank and open and honest, especially about the burdens of growing up as Billy Graham’s daughter, and she is wonderfully determined to be herself.  She also has a knack for insight into Scripture, as this particular book shows, and a desire to bring those who have been wounded by God’s children back into the church.

And that’s where my innate skepticism about this book comes in, I suppose, because although Lotz tells her own stories of being wounded by other Christians – some that sounded absolutely awful, that left her humiliated and exposed – whispering in the background of those accounts is my knowledge that this is Billy Graham’s daughter.

And for all Lotz clearly empathizes with those who have been wounded, I couldn’t help but wonder how the experience of being wounded by God’s people might differ for Billy Graham’s daughter – who in spite of being wounded was still surrounded, largely, by loving Christians, who had loving Christians in her life, who undoubtedly had and has people worldwide praying for her – from the experience of someone who perhaps did not have those things.  Who perhaps had no loving Christians around, who perhaps did not have a loving and supportive family, who perhaps only knew what it was like to be wounded by God’s people.

But that’s no reason not to get the book, especially if you’ve been hurt by those in the church – or if you’ve been the one doing the hurting.

The strength of this book and its uniqueness, to me, lies in Lotz’s willingness to use the story of Hagar, Abraham and Sarah’s servant and surrogate, as the backbone of the text.  The Hagar story is not often told, nor dwelt upon, but it becomes clear on Lotz’s reading that Hagar had been hurt dearly by those who claimed to serve God – and that such hurt impacted her own relationship with God.  So Lotz uses the story to demonstrate the path back to healing for the wounded believer, and to illustrate the perils and problems along the way.  This is the masterstroke of the text, and one that made me love it, especially since I often hear the story of Hagar taught in what I can only call “yada-yada-Islam” sermons.  Scripturally, this felt like a refreshing take.

From there, Lotz walks the reader through the process of what it means to be wounded by those in the church, how often the wounded can become wounders themselves, and how to break out of that cycle of hurt into a rich relationship with God once more.  She alternates her instruction with passages and explication from Hagar’s story, as well as with personal anecdotes from her own account, and the result is quite unique and a refreshing read for those tired of pretending that everything inside the church walls is a utopia.

This book essentially functions as a road map for those have been hurt, deeply, by those who claim to live in Christ.  What I like about it is that while Lotz understands the heaviness of such a grievance, and emphasizes it, she also doesn’t want people being caught up in it to the detriment of their walk with God.  As someone who struggled with a past church to the point that I sought out a new one (because otherwise I simply would have stopped attending altogether), I like her emphasis on how we should pursue whatever it takes to be close to God – even in the midst of our being wounded and in the midst of our hurt.  Lotz’ biggest fear seems to be that believers wounded by other believers will then use those wounds as a justification for drifting away from faith and from God.

Because the problem with being wounded by God’s people, as Lotz aptly points out, is that our response to the wounding often either turns us into wounders – or only wounds us more.  Pain begets pain begets pain, and Lotz traces this cycle through the lives of Sarah and Hagar. To break the cycle of hurt, it’s imperative that we prioritize our relationship with God and do what we must to protect and strengthen that, even in the face of great betrayal and sorrow – because God does see us in our pain, and He really does care.

Ultimately, though I chose this book because I have felt wounded by those at church in the past, I ended up feeling that my grievances weren’t all that profound compared to some stories Lotz shared. There are many, many people far more deeply wounded by other believers than I was, and I’m not in need of the heavy-duty healing she describes. In the end and on my own, I ended up making the choice Lotz advocates in the book: I chose closeness to God rather than alienation from the church, and I took steps to make that possible.

But I know that some people certainly are struggling, and in a time when church bodies have grown more divisive than ever and believers more apt to hurt each other, this book is a good manual for learning how to grow beyond the unique pain that comes from being hurt by other Christians.  And honestly?  It’s nice to read a book that faces the harsh reality of church life: a book that acknowledges, yes, some of the worst hurts we’ll ever face can come from our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you’ve been hurt by those in the church, or if you’ve hurt brothers and sisters in the church and you’re struggling with that, Wounded By God’s People isn’t going to fix everything or make it all better – but it’s a great place to start as you seek to get back on track.

 

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3 responses to “Book Review: Anne Graham Lotz’s Wounded By God’s People

  1. I heard Anne speak in person once, and she shared (appropriately) how she was badly mistreated at a church and moved through that. I’ve also heard her talk of sad mistreatment because she speaks to mixed sex audiences. Once at an event, most of the men in the room turned their backs to her in protest. I’ve listened to some of her Bible teaching too. But have yet to read one of her books.

    “who in spite of being wounded was still surrounded, largely, by loving Christians, who had loving Christians in her life, who undoubtedly had and has people worldwide praying for her” – I don’t know. I see it a bit differently. For sure, Anne has a supportive family and likely does have extra prayers from around the world because of who she is. But I also think being a known figure and part of a famous family can be very isolating. People treat you differently. It can be hard to develop real friendships. It can also be harder to be yourself, because people have an unfair expectation of you – the famous preacher’s daughter. Etc.

    This is a book I reviewed on being wounded in the church – I really liked it. https://lightenough.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/wounded-by-the-church-healing-your-way-back-to-the-people-of-god-book-review/

    Thanks for your review!

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  2. I think you’re right that it’s very isolating – probably in a way that a less famous or well known Christians would find it difficult to understand (so the gap in fully empathizing would well go both ways, I believe, and I thought about that too as I was writing/reading). I just think even if that’s not an accurate view, it can be a tempting one to fall into when you’re reading the book (as it can be with any Christian author who is very well-known, I think!). Sometimes when you know who they are they can become bigger in some ways than their own text.

    I’d love to hear her speak on the subject! As for the men – that’s the kind of thing I cannot hold my tongue for and cannot abide. I do think that part of healing the wounding of Christians is in large part for other believers to step in during the wounding and say, “This is not okay.” But it is a hard, hard thing to do.

    I haven’t read that one, so I’ll add it to the list! As someone who was somewhat wounded by the church myself, though not nearly so severely as some, it’s a topic I’m curious about.

    Liked by 1 person

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