Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores
by Diane Langberg
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She’s seen slave dungeons in Ghana. Genocide in Rwanda. Systemic sexual abuse in Brazil. Child abuse and domestic violence in the U.S. After forty years of counseling abuse survivors around the world, Dr. Diane Langberg, a world renowned trauma expert, remains certain that what trauma destroys, Christ can and does restore. This book will convince you, too, of the healing heart of God.
But it’s not a fast process, instead much patience is required from family, friends, and counselors as they wisely and respectfully help victims unpack their traumatic suffering through talking, tears, and time. And it’s not a process that can be separated from the work of God in both a counselor and counselee. Dr. Langberg calls all of those who wish to help sufferers to model Jesus’s sacrificial love and care in how they listen, love, and guide. The heart of God is revealed to sufferers as they grow to understand the cross of Christ and how their God came to this earth and experienced such severe suffering that he too is “well-acquainted with grief.” The cross of Christ is the lens that transforms and redeems traumatic suffering and its aftermath, not only for the sufferer, but it also transforms those who walk with the suffering. This book will be a great help to anyone who loves, listens to, and seeks to help someone impacted by trauma and abuse. There is no quick fix, but there is the hope for healing through the love of God in Christ.
Diane Langberg, PhD, is a world-recognized authority on sex-trafficking and violence against women, setting up training programs to assist Rwandans and many others around the world in working with victims of trauma. She also directs her own Christian counseling practice, employing about fifteen other counselors and was cofounder of The Place of Refuge, an inner-city nonprofit in Philadelphia that works with the traumatized. Among Dr. Langberg’s books are Counsel for Pastors’ Wives (1988), On the Threshold of Hope (1999), and Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse (2003). Learn more about Dr. Langberg at DianeLangberg.com.
"In a poetic, powerful, passionate, and challenging book, Diane Langberg, with her many years of counseling experience, takes us on a disturbing (and healing) journey into the hearts of the survivors of many different types of terrible trauma all over the world—into our own bent and broken hearts, and then into the heart of an amazing, loving God who was humiliated, crucified, and abandoned so that we (and the whole creation) might be healed and delivered from the power of evil. This is a superb master-class in counseling and pastoral care with a gifted, experienced, and wise therapist."
Richard Winter, MD, Therapist and Professor of Practical Theology and Counseling, Covenant Theological Seminary
"Through this book, Dr. Langberg names one of the most insidious threats to spiritual health in our generation: trauma and the wounded heart. While disturbing, her unrelenting campaign identifies the next "mission field" of the church, those who are suffering silently. This book is for all who hunger to help a loved one, congregant, or client apply the truth of God’s Word as a healing ointment to the hidden anguish that trauma leaves in its wake."
Roy Peterson, President, American Bible Society
"God never wastes a wound. He is in the midst of our darkest moment revealing himself—full of love, truth, hope, and healing. This book is an absolute treasure—a gift of grace to us all."
Tim Clinton, President, American Association of Christian Counselors
"Diane Langberg brings to these moving essays decades of experience working with trauma survivors in the United States and abroad. This is no arms-length reflection on the nature of human suffering. Throughout, she repeatedly points her readers to Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant, who is the only hope for victim and perpetrator alike—and for the counselor who desires to be used by God to make a difference amidst terrible brokenness and sin."
Michael R. Emlet, MDiv, MD, Faculty and Counselor, the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF); author of CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet
"This book reflects the glory and love of God throughout forty years of counseling experience. Diane is a masterful teacher and counselor for victims of abuse and violence. Reflecting Christ, she inspires new and experienced counselors and encourages them to bring the love of God to suffering hearts. This book is a masterpiece."
Luciene Schalm, President of REVER (Restoring Lives, Equipping Restorers) Ministry, Brazil; missionary of Comunidade Cristã Siloé
"We live in a broken world and evil is real. Where the true light of the gospel of Christ goes, the darkness of evil in this world retreats. William Wilberforce reflected the character of Christ into the eighteenth century British Empire and faithfully led the fight against slavery for forty years until it was outlawed. Diane Langberg has for forty years looked into the eyes of those wounded by evil and been a powerful voice for healing, justice, and truth. This book is a place of insight, wisdom, encouragement, and challenge for the body of Christ to love our precious Lord and to reflect his heart and love to the brokenhearted."
Greg Pritchard, PhD, Director, European Leadership Forum, President, Forum of Christian Leaders
"Diane Langberg has seen the effects of trauma all over the globe from Rwandan survivors of genocide, to inner city kids plagued with PTSD, to suburban moms trapped in violent marriages, to middle schoolers who cut themselves just to feel something, to big steeple pastors in American churches. Suffering is real and it really hurts body and soul. In Suffering and the Heart of God, Diane Langberg never diminishes the pain of suffering, but neither does she despair. By looking to the suffering of the cross of Christ, Diane Langberg leads us to hope and healing."
Frank A. James, PhD, DPhil, President, Biblical Theological Seminary
"This book is a powerful invitation into the fellowship of the suffering, a reparative work of the vulnerable, afflicted, and abused. Dr. Langberg is gentle and caring to the victims, confrontational to the abusers, and challenging to the church, which often fails to be a refuge. As a therapist and trainer, this is the best manual I’ve seen on what a therapist’s heart should look like. A good portion of the book is dedicated to teaching how not to be consumed by the evil in this world, pointing to Christ who can offer restoration to all."
Stefana-Ioana Racorean, Family psychotherapist and trainer, Dianoia Institute of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice; The Association of Christian Psychologists in Romania
"As someone who has prosecuted, investigated, and confronted child sexual abuse for over twenty years, I have encountered dark suffering up close. As a Christian, I have spent many hours agonizing how to reconcile such suffering with a God who calls himself love. Suffering and the Heart of God is an amazing book that does a masterful job in helping to see suffering through the heart of a loving God who knows and understands suffering and the pain it creates. This book brings hope to the sufferer who wonders where God is in the midst of it all. It’s a must-read!"
Boz Tchividjian, JD, Executive Director, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)
"I challenge you to name a more influential Christian psychologist today than Dr. Langberg. This is not hyperbole! While an impressive communicator, brilliant thinker, and an astute therapist, the real reason for her influence is her willingness to be a student first—of broken people, of herself, and of God. Too often influential leaders spend much time touting themselves. This book will show you something different, in that you will see more of God and his heart for suffering people than you will of Dr. Langberg—just as she would want it."
Philip G. Monroe, PsyD, Professor of Counseling & Psychology, Biblical Seminary Graduate School of Counseling and Global Trauma Recovery Institute
"Do not read this book unless you are genuinely open to being led by the Holy Spirit to become more involved in ministering ‘to the least of these’ in Christ’s name. Dr. Langberg has written a powerful and thorough summary of the complex reality of trauma in our world today. She has described Christ’s Gethsemane weeping and his Calvary caring for those who are wounded and needy, and she calls us to weep and to watch and to care with him. She challenges us—Will we weep and watch and care, or will we sleep?"
Dr. Samuel Logan, Associate International Director, The World Reformed Fellowship
"As a Rwandan who lived through genocide, experienced my own trauma, and witnessed trauma for my people and my clients, I know firsthand the truth of what Diane teaches in this book. Until you understand the psychology of evil, sin, and suffering, many things will remain hidden and unanswered, but Christ can transform lives affected by emotional trauma into instruments to restore life and turn victim into victor. Thank you, Diane, for addressing this difficult and often hidden topic."
Baraka Paulette Uwingeneye, President, Rwandan Association of Christian Counselors; Director of Aftercare, International Justice Mission, Rwanda
"Diane drops insightful one-liners like others drop names. I remember the first time I heard her describe trauma as the ‘mission field of the twenty-first century.’ Suddenly, everything we were grappling with in the field made sense. A thousand lightbulbs went off. Synapses clicked. That one sentence opened up a new direction in my personal life and vocation. Read at your own risk because there’s no going back to the way life was before."
John Walter, President, African Leadership; cofounder of The Trauma Healing Institute
"When I get the chance to listen to or read Diane Langberg’s work, I take it. Of the five greatest talks I’ve heard in my sixty-eight years, she gave two of them. Her writing inspires. She is as tough-minded as people come, never underestimating the horrors of life. But walking with her through those horrors inspires me with hope. Because Diane walks with Jesus, and where Jesus is, there is hope. Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores will turn your heart more fully to God in the midst of the evils and mundane cares of the world that you face. Please read it."
Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Author of Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past
"Stepping into the trenches with those whose lives have been blown apart by the heinous business of human trafficking means you’re battling alongside them on many fronts: past, present, and future. The terrain is dark and hostile, and the Enemy seems to have won. But, as Langberg artfully reminds us, we are but chaplains in this war. The battle is the Lord’s and the victory is certain. Be of good courage and press on!"
Jeanne L. Allert, MEd, Founder and Executive Director, The Samaritan Women