cover image Cries from the Heart: Stories of Struggle and Hope

Cries from the Heart: Stories of Struggle and Hope

Johann Christoph Arnold. Plough Publishing House, $10 (226pp) ISBN 978-0-87486-980-4

Arnold (Seeking Peace) recounts numerous stories from his work as a pastoral counselor to demonstrate the power of prayer. Arnold tells these anecdotes to demonstrate how meaning in life is often found during times of despair and suffering. Each story, he says, ""shows that courage is rarely won without despair, that joy is often yoked with pain, and that faith is seldom reached without struggle and doubt."" In the chapter on ""Searching,"" a woman named Sybil recounts her early rejection of God and the hell of drug use and prostitution she spiraled down into, all the while still searching for God. After her experience at a Christian retreat center, where the retreat leader read aloud the same passages from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov that had caused her to question God in the first place, she ""embraces a new thought: it is not God who torments the innocent. It is Sybil...."" Arnold concludes from this story that all Sybil's rebellious acts, whether she realized it or not, were unspoken prayers that God finally answered. Other stories in the collection retell the pain of a mother whose small child has died, the hopelessness of a drug dealer languishing in prison, and the pain of a woman whose family has fallen apart. Through each of these tales, Arnold tries to demonstrate the old adage that ""God works in mysterious ways."" Although the stories are sometimes moving, Arnold's brief interpretations of them are not profound and fail to teach lessons that cannot be found elsewhere in a livelier form. (June)