"Embodied Hope" by Kelly M. Kapic. A Review

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering
Kelly M. Kapic
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
ISBN: 978-0-8308-5179-9; $18.00; June 2017
5 of 5 Stars: For the Hurting, the Healers and the Helpers

One of the most awkward moments you can ever face is to walk into a hospice, a hospital room, or a home and get bombarded with “why” questions: why pain, why this catastrophe, why this decline and death. What truly makes it clumsy is to then start waxing eloquent about the problem of evil and pain and the goodness of God in a defensive, apologetic posture. Most of the time the family is not asking, needing or wanting a crash course in philosophy. I learned early on in situations like this to simply sit down, shed tears with the family, and hold hands with parishioners or patients. Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain Georgia and able author, presents similar advice and direction from personal experience in his new 197 page paperback, “Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering”.  This fine little book is “a theological and pastoral meditation” (4) for the hurting, the healers and the helpers.

Kapic takes readers through three levels dealing with the struggle, the strangeness of God and life together. On the first stage the author looks at how pain brings us to think “hard thoughts about God,” to ask questions that often accompany the sorrow, to see how we should and shouldn’t react to those aching or grieving, and to make certain we do not belittle the body and its role in bringing us to recognize our place and space. “Our existence occurs not as beings who drop out of the sky but rise from the dust” (50). Since embodied pain reminds of this, it helps us also to know that we “cannot act as if we have complete control over our bodies or live as if our actions have no purpose beyond our own convenience and pleasure” (55). There is some well-seasoned thinking between these soft covers!

“Embodied Hope” then ascends to the next plane by addressing, rightly, the incarnation, cross and resurrection. Here is where strong theology moves out of the seminary and confessional books, arrives to sit down beside our sickbeds, take hold of our hands and become therapeutic. “Our physical pain genuinely matters to Jesus – it matters to God! We are far too prone to spiritualize what Jesus makes physical, even theologizing his physical suffering into a response to our spiritual problem (sin), as if our true being were only spiritual and not physical. For Jesus, the physical and spiritual are indissolubly connected, and his life and death address them both” (94) as does, also, his resurrection.

The final platform serves up the more practical aspects, both for the healers and helpers, as well as the hurting. Kapic leans mightily on Luther, and draws heavily from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” in these three chapters. The author addresses the task of the congregation, the place of confession, and the importance of commitment. “Frequently, what the sufferer needs most is not answers but a loving presence and lasting commitment. Both the sufferer and those who care for them need to be committed to faithful suffering” (151).

“Embodied Hope” is teeming with wisdom, direction and consolation for the hurting, the healers and the helpers. As a pastor I can unashamedly say that every minister should snatch up a copy, read it through, dog-ear it, mark it with pen and highlighter, and employ its counsel with prayer and grace. This volume would be ideal for adult groups to read and discuss. But also, sufferers and caregivers alike will find it a bountiful boon. I strongly recommend the book!

Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).


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