Book Review – Not Forsaken by Jennifer Greenberg

This book came with a lot of recommendations (from folks like Dustin Benge, JD Greear, Megan Lively, David Murray). Russell Moore wrote the forward to the book. There is so much to commend in the book. I loved the raw honesty and boldness that Jennifer Greenberg displays through the book. I also loved the way she mixes her bold story with brilliant theological reflections. I have minor quibbles with the way she makes some statements. But overall, this is a really helpful book for those who have faced abuse (emotional, spiritual or physical) or even for those who are involved in counselling.

Not all abuse is physical, some of it is emotional and spiritual. Much of the abuse that Jennifer faced from her father was emotional abuse. Much of her abuse, she points out, was a desperation by her father to control her life. In the early chapters, she helpfully looks at two types of guilt we all experience: borrowed guilt and legitimate guilt. She points out “We must reject Borrowed Guilt and hold abusers accountable, while simultaneously being honest with ourselves about our own sin and Legitimate Guilt.” Then she gives us some reasons why survivors don’t report their abuse. They fear revenge or being disbelieved. They even have a fear of being believed or have a fear of worldly justice or no justice at all.

In the chapter titled “Unearthing the image of God”, Jennifer looks at how difficult it is for survivors to accept the fact that they are made in the image of God. Accepting the fact that we are made in God’s image means accepting that we are valuable and have intrinsic dignity, which also means that the abuser is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value, however sinful they may be. So, she rightly asks, “How can we value someone whose behavior is worthless? How can we honor one who is dishonorable?” In the chapter about forgiveness, she helpfully defines two “modes of forgiveness”, what she calls, “Boundaried Forgiveness” and “Reconciled Forgiveness.” She then points to God’s forgiveness to help us learn Christlike forgiveness. While God offers forgiveness to all, He doesn’t grant it to all. It is granted only on the condition of repentance and once granted, results in reconciliation (though of course it doesn’t negate the consequences of sin). I found that chapter very helpful.

Now to a few minor quibbles and I say this wanting to give Jenn the benefit of doubt. In the context where she talks about why God created us, she writes, “He’s patiently waiting for you to scream at Him and wrestle with Him, so He can catch you up in His arms like an adoring Father…” Not sure if I would use those words, since screaming at God gives the impression of being angry at God (the Bible does encourage Godly lament, but not being angry at God – which is sinful). And a couple of times (in chapters 13 and 14), she mentions that Jesus was “wracked with anxiety” in the garden of Gethsemane. I am sure she didn’t mean that Jesus was anxious in a sinful way, but I thought her words about the Savior could have been chosen with more care.

These minor quibbles aside, this book is a much-needed one. Jennifer’s story is painful, yet it needs to be heard. Her story is a work of grace. God’s magnificent purpose in her pain stands out clearly through the book. She also paints a beautiful picture of the Fatherhood of God, despite the abuse by her father. She shows us that there is hope and healing for survivors of abuse. And I am thankful for her life and her story! Glad to recommend this book. 4/5 stars.

*I received this complimentary book from The Good Book Company, but was not required to write a positive review.*

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