Cover Image: Echoing Hope

Echoing Hope

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Member Reviews

Thank you for advanced copy of this book.

I found this book honest and thought provoking and it really helped me work through some past issues.  I urge anyone to get a copy of this.
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This book requires a spiritually mature and discerning person. The first portion (maybe as much as half, I'm not sure) was really good. I felt like it was God's timing that I was reading it when I was. And then things got interesting.

There are things that are said, the way things are said at times, that have me cautious about this book. Words matter greatly, especially when a theological framework hangs on them. When dealing with things that are too great for us to understand, our words are crucial because the wrong ones can lead to misunderstanding. I may know or guess what the author intends to say but what about someone who is newer to the faith? And what about someone who is in great pain, not looking for spiritual trip wires? I do not think the author intends to trip people up, by any means, but that could be an unintended consequence.

Something else that troubled me were the many quotes from people who are at best questionable on orthodox Christianity. I'm not saying that these people have nothing good or correct to say, one quote was quite good, but they are authors that you need to have extreme caution when reading. It concerns me when their names show up in a book, because it is likely that this author (Kurt Willems in this case) is a student or friend of them and likely influenced by what they teach. Which might not be a good thing.

There were a lot of good things to be gleaned from this book. I really like portions of it. But all things taken together, I can not recommend this to anyone and the only ones I think should read are those who are spiritually mature and discerning. If you have to put that much work into a book, especially a book you would read to find comfort, there are better options for you. My top recommendation would be Philip Yancey's Where Is God When It Hurts? and I am sure there are other great ones as well.

A smaller complaint is that I felt like Willems got too political at times. I fully support Christians being political, but this was not the book for that. However, if that had been all that I found an issue with, I would have probably given it four stars.
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Echoing Hope is a beautiful reminder that even in our darkest moments, Jesus is entering into those places with us. Often we forget that Jesus came to earth as a human and experienced things as we do. Willems does a beautiful job of showing us how Jesus, in his humanity, enters into those hardest situations in life and fully experiences them with us. Through walking through hard things, Willems reminds us that it further connects us God. And while we may sometimes not see him in the moment, we can go back and revisit those places and ask God to reveal himself to us. As someone who has also experienced my own share of grief and hard struggles, I loved the different view of seeing Jesus in our grief. When we see Jesus, in His humanity, there with us, we are able to begin a new healing process.
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Echoing Hope
Full of hope, this book is also filled with reality. We get thru -- not over -- reality with hope.
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This past year has been a hard one. But through COVID-19 or any painful situation in your life, Kurt Willems is here to tell you that Jesus is with you, though it may be hard to see. His new book Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems Our Pain, which I got to review for free, is all about keeping the faith even in our vast emptiness and loneliness.

It's kind of hard for me to sum up this book because I feel like each of the four sections in this book covers a lot of ground. First, it talks about where Jesus is in the middle of our pain and why suffering happens. Then, it talks about how to hear God's echoes, using examples from Jesus' own life. The third section is kind of applying it all to real life, and the last section is about accepting the risk of loving despite the pain it can cause.

Basically, Jesus as the human form of God shows us what it means to be human. And through Jesus' own experience with pain, we know that God understands what we're going through, and he's always there with us.

If you've ever felt that you're alone, just know that you are not. Willems shares his stories of pain growing up at the hands of an abuser and the story of his wife's miscarriage and his failed church. And we know from the Bible that Jesus experienced personal pain and also wept for others' pain.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

I made a lot of notes while reading this book, and found many applications to things going on in my own life, from motherhood to still grieving the loss of my mom. No matter what you're going through, I'm sure you'll find something relatable and helpful within these pages.

Echoing Hope is published by WaterBrook and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free e-ARC in exchange for my review.
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I was gravely disappointed in this book. It has been a considerable period of time since I read a book that mangled, contorted, and twisted Scripture to a preconceived idea. 

I did not finish this book, and that is a rarity for me.
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Willems writes to give Christians a new way to travel the path of their pain. Jesus is our model and Willems desires we learn to lean into the tension of pain and hope. While he informs us that in this life we will never fully overcome the pain we walk through, we can step into it and through it with Jesus. (517/3723)

Willems shares his own stories of pain. He is very expressive and descriptive and some people reading his accounts may find themselves revisiting their own painful experiences. He writes that “there is something transformational” about opening up his story to God. (487/3723) I wonder if that cathartic experience of sharing trauma was not a part of Willems' reason for writing this book. 

He writes of the benefit of his own therapy and seems to be a believer in its necessity. He includes a formative exercise where he says not to reflect on traumatic memories without a therapist or trusted counselor for support. (532/3723) He also writes of Jesus going to His therapist's office often, connecting deeply with His Father. (665/3723) I found it interesting that we are not encouraged to do the same, to deeply connect with our Father. I thought Jesus' human experience and example was the point of this book.

Another aspect of Willems teaching I found puzzling was his observation after noting he was plagued with anxiety. “I'm finding that there exists a freedom through anxiety rather than a freedom from it. Jesus taught me that.” (680/3723) I thought for sure Jesus taught that we were not be anxious about any aspect of our life. (Oh, that's right, He did, in Matt. 6:25-34. He even gave us the antidote to anxiety there, seeking first the kingdom.)

I am unclear as to the audience for whom Willems wrote this book. His writing is often academic and theological in style. He does, for example, repeatedly argue that we must fully recognize the humanity of Jesus and not neglect it. He also has quite a discussion on the sovereignty of God verses free will, gives a lengthy exploration of Caesar Augustus and how he is to be understood, and explores the various meanings of baptism by the many cultures in first century world. The layperson wanting insights into dealing with their pain may skim over such material.

I think Willems' concept of Jesus as our model when experiencing pain has great potential. I am just puzzled as to how to glean life changing teaching from this book. Willems says of those reading the book hoping to find a remedy for deep pain, that is a tall order he “won't be able to fully deliver on.” (2733/3723) 

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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Theologically sound book which may be a bit "heavy" for the average reader, but it's great for someone who wants to go a bit deeper. The author shares his own story in a very raw way, which could make it more relatable for the reader. 

One of my favorite quotes:

- Joy and pain aren’t enemies. They’re companions. The highs and lows of life dance together more often than we’d like to admit.
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Solid Exploration. Once one gets past the rampant (and expected) proof texting and leftist/ West Coast language barriers. Here, Willems makes a lot of really strong points about Jesus, pain, and Jesus' humanity that many have rarely if ever considered. And thus this is truly a strong book. It drops a star due to the rampant (beginning on page 2 or so) proof texting (which was expected, he *is* a pastor, after all) and I am waging a one-man war against the practice, with my book reviews being really my only weapon. And thus, any time I see the practice in a book I am reading, it is an automatic one star deduction, no matter how strong the rest of the text is. The rest of the text, away from the prooftexting, will largely vary by the reader's comfort level with leftist/ West Coast language, which is also rampant. To me, Willems could have adjusted the diction in these places to reflect more inclusive - see what I did there? ;) - language and arguably made a stronger book as a whole. As it is, the book reads a bit political with its talk of privilege and context and intersectionality, among other terms, even as Willems actually repeatedly makes the point that if you're looking to politics for solutions, you're looking in the wrong place. So ultimately the book will likely play better in certain crowds than others, and truly YMMV with the text solely based on the diction Willems uses. But ultimately his actual points are sound no matter your own political bent, and that is the very reason this book is recommended as highly as it is. Seriously, don't let Willems' word choices have you throwing the book out the window in disgust, keep reading and auto-translating in your head. It was very much worth it, at least for me. Truly a strong book with a couple of quibbles, it is still very much recommended.
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My friend Kurt Willems has a book coming out in March and I had the chance to read an early copy. It’s called Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems our Pain. I could recommend this book without even reading it because I can recommend Kurt as a person. And after reading it, I can say that the book represents him well.

Kurt is the pastor of Pangea Church in Washington. I would describe him as a pastoral theologian… and his book reads the same way. By that I mean he will connect with you on an emotional level while simultaneously dropping some profound theological depth in the process. It’s a rare skill to be able to balance the two as well as he does.

A few theological goodies:
-God’s empathy is better than God’s control.
-Jesus practiced love in advance so he could live out love on the spot.
-In Jesus, God suffers with us all.

One aspect of the book that jumps off the page is the raw vulnerability in which Kurt shares his own story. He shares the raw pain of growing up with the father figure in his life. I suspect his ability to share this narrative can only come from a truly confident person who has put in the work to deal with the pain that many of these stories represent. It’s also where Kurt shows how much he has to offer the reader by diving into territory that many Christian books won’t dare to touch. We all know pain and this book offers you a way to see Jesus in the midst of it.

Here are a few quotes that express this idea:
-Joy and pain aren’t enemies. They’re companions. The highs and lows of life dance together more often than we’d like to admit.
-Something is profoundly wrong. Jesus goes missing way too often.
-Jesus desires that we step into the world’s pain, echoing hope to the hurting as we wait for him to bring creation to an eternal state of shalom.

When we hurt, we allow it to empower us to move through suffering in a new way. Love isn’t the remedy to pain—at least in this life. Just as Jesus didn’t neglect his own pain but went to the cross and laid down his life for friends and enemies alike, so we embrace pain and invite it into companionship with God’s love.

It’s refreshing to read a Christian book that doesn’t promise me prosperity and success. Rather, it invites the reader to experience the depth of life in Jesus. As Kurt says, “Jesus took on our nature so that we might take on his.”
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Kurt Willem’s “Echoing Hope” is a rare gem and much needed resource in these times of uncertainty, suffering, and ubiquitous injustice. Kurt’s writing is profoundly compassionate, beyond-his-years wise, and beautifully pastoral. I highly recommend this work!
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