Book Review: Finding Hope

Heidi Goehmnn has written Finding Hope with the goal to help the reader “find hope by first calling brokenness by name” (13). The rest of the book casts a broad net to identify all the ways people experience brokenness. After a rich haul, it organizes brokenness into four general areas: brokenness in the individual, brokenness in family, brokenness in community, brokenness in creation. 

Each section takes a deep dive in identifying the broken things of life. Thus, the brokenness of family is divided into the subcategories of broken ‘safety and knowing’, broken ‘childhoods’, broken ‘romantic relationships’, and broken ‘family life.’

Each chapter is a commentary on brokenness; how it arrives, how it impacts people, how it impacts others, and how it can obstruct our view of Jesus Christ. Goehmann’s goal, however, is to find hope, not obscure it. Finding Hope does a good job of showing the reader that hope doesn’t flee from brokenness, but is found in its midst. 

Ultimately, the book is an exercise in honesty. We can call brokenness by name, and it doesn’t matter what the brokenness is, it doesn’t disqualify us from hope in Christ. Think of it like this: North Americans have been conditioned to gloss over, cover up, or otherwise ignore bad things, because the naming of bad things is often accompanied by negative consequences. Suppose I am in search of term life-insurance. If I have an underlying health condition and that health condition is named or brought to light, it may disqualify me from the hope that life-insurance would give me and my family. 

True hope doesn’t operate like the world. Naming brokenness doesn’t disqualify you from the needful things of God. If anything, it will heighten your joy to know that God’s love in Christ specifically meets you in your brokenness. God doesn’t flee from and abandon you in your brokenness. He works and promises to bring you through it to restoration.

The back of the book includes a reader’s guide with discussion questions, though full disclosure requires me to confess that I did not use the book in this way.

I confess that I struggled mightily to get through this book. Two critiques are warranted.

The first critique is over the use of the word “hope” itself. Hope is a future-oriented word. Nobody today says, “I hope the St. Louis Cardinals win the 2011 World Series.” Nobody says that because it’s already happened. Likewise, hope is not a present reality. Present situations may be hope-ful, but they are not, themselves, “hope.” Goehmann shoehorns “hope” where words like “blessing” and “comfort” would be better. Two examples are illustrative.

Example one is from the chapter titled “Brokenness and Disintegration” wherein she writes, “This is hope: the curse of brokenness is also a doorway to Jesus Christ” (30). Does that statement speak to a future-oriented reality? And is that really our hope? It’s a blessing, to be sure, but hope? With even the smallest adjustment, this quote could have been significantly better. I’d put forth the following slight modification “There is hope because the curse of brokenness is also a doorway to Jesus Christ.” 

Example two is from the chapter “Family Life,” wherein Goehmann writes, “This is hope: there is no road without its obstacles in family life, no map for family life. But each road we find ourselves on, God is there too” (107). I ask again, “What is the future-oriented reality that is expressed here?” Answer: there isn’t one. That’s because this isn’t hope. It’s comfort. It’s a comfort that God is with us. The hope is that the God who is with us in our broken families will restore the brokenness and rectify the injustice. 

The second critique is that the chapters were indistinguishable from one another, making the book largely forgettable. Rather than the chapters adding to the conversation, they only succeeded in piling on. If Finding Hope were a meal, it was like getting thirteen servings of mashed potatoes, instead of a salad, two sides, an entrée, a desert, and a drink. 

Finding Hope is a really good serving of mashed potatoes. I just didn’t want them thirteen times.