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Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Recipient of Publishers Weekly starred review and Christianity Today 5-star review

At the age of 39, Christian theologian Todd Billings was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer. In the wake of that diagnosis, he began grappling with the hard theological questions we face in the midst of crisis: Why me? Why now? Where is God in all of this? This eloquently written

Paperback, 218 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Brazos Press (first published February 10th 2015)
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Derek Emerson
[A full disclaimer is needed at the outset. Todd Billings is a friend and neighbor. In fact, at the time of his diagnosis he was our next door neighbor. It was a diagnosis that hit us hard, as at that time our youngest son was in midst of treatment for the cancer that would eventually end his life. It is my son, Oliver, that Todd refers to at one point in the book. While this relationship would incline one to think I'll find favor with the book, it actually creates more risk for me to be hurt by ...more
Jonathan Brown
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A moving, heartfelt, head-rich book, not shy about complexity but always open to the light. Perhaps one of the best books on this particular topic. Should I ever develop cancer (quite likely, given my family history), it's one I'll turn to again in a heartbeat. I preface this review with just one critique: Billings is an academic, and even here, he writes like one. Numerous forays into theological disputes with, e.g., Moltmann and numerous others; heavily laden with jargon; all in all, very litt ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have stage 4 cancer with it spreading into my bones and lymph nodes. Reading this book helped with my thoughts and emotions, as well as my spiritual response to my creator. I encounter on a daily basis the response of other believers. Some help and really some don't. Dr. Billings walked me through a thorough but easy to understand, response to God and to others from what I might initially feel and think. He takes you through each stage of thoughts and feelings. He offers ways to talk to God in ...more
Matthew Mitchell
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Profound theological reflections on biblical lament by a man who, sadly and gladly, has had to practice what he preaches.

In 2012, Todd Billings was diagnosed with stage 3 (out of 3) multiple myeloma and told he needed to start chemotherapy the next week. Todd was only 39 and had a wife and two very small children. Immediately, Todd went through intensely aggressive treatment to reach a first remission and then began continual lifelong retesting for the almost inevitable return of the cancer. Tod
Andrzej Stelmasiak
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
WOW. What a tremendous book. Beautiful yet profound. (Solid) theological reflection on the sad reality of suffering, and balanced individual-corporate response to it.

Very accessible, good to give to an average churchgoer.

FAR MUCH BETTER than Vroegop's book, these are actually worlds apart... Yeah, there is definitely a difference between Reformed and Evangelical answer to one's suffering.

6 out of 5 stars.
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is a rare book that can hover been the academic and the personal in a way that enriches both realms. After he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma at age 39, J. Todd Billings’ life took a surprising turn. A future that had once been measured in decades now lay shrouded in fog. This narrowing of his future led Billings deeper into prayer as he wrestled with his diagnosis. The fruit of that reflection and his journey is found in Rejoicing in Lament.

As Billings notes, “God’s story does not annihi
Ashley McKnight
A beautiful read looking at lament in the life of the Christian, and how we can have hope in the midst of deepest losses. Billing looks to the psalms and teaches us how they should frame our experience of loss and lament by looking through the lens of his own experience with a very rare form of cancer. He addresses many issues such as how to respond and pray in light of loss and suffering, how we can rob others of the space to lament with many half-truths, how we pray in light of the coming king ...more
Michael Philliber
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
C.S. Lewis once stated, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas” (“Mere Christianity,” 128). But for many people theology is simply dusty, drab, dispassionate, desiccated drivel. And then into the mix life happens, or death, bringing tragedy and theology to meet and clash in the sparring ring. It’s right here, in all of the sweat, the grit and the grappling, that J. To ...more
Tori Samar
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although Dr. Billings and I don't share the same theological perspective (he writes from a Reformed perspective, and it does influence his remarks in places), I appreciated this thoughtful "wrestling" with how his story of having incurable cancer fits into God's bigger story for humanity and the rest of creation. By my observation, this isn't really a book that follows a linear progression of thought. It's more like a series of meditations on various things like lament, mortality, the problem of ...more
April Yamasaki
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book - personal, self-reflective, thoughtful, theological, with many insights on suffering, prayer, and the purpose of life. "We pray as a Christ-shaped people for a Christ-shaped kingdom to come." "Until the kingdom comes in its fullness, the Christian life will continue to involve ongoing lament & ongoing rejoicing." I've already referred to this book once for a sermon on lament, and am sure I will draw on it again in my preaching. ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a depth book - not for the faint of heart- as this book goes into great detail and deep theology in Billings 's experience with his diagnosis of cancer. His views of lament as a Christian who faces a dire prognosis is spot on. I especially liked his thoughts on the pop culture views of God as a granting favors God - wish fulfillment God or that of a no- control God- Fatalistic God. I also appreciated his thoughts and theology on the thought that in order to have one's requests to Go ...more
Douglas Hayes
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book for both those who suffer and for those who minister the the suffering. This NOT just about incurable disease, cancer and dying. It is about living in a world that is not the way it was created to be, and anticipating the work of Sovereign God through the work of Christ bring all things to right. It is about how to think rightly, pray in faith, sing the Psalms and live in the community of the saints. It is about how to talk and live with and for those who are suffering. Its about ...more
Stephen Hielkema
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am very thankful for Billings' honest and candid expression of lament in the face of incurable cancer. So often in the midst of life we either despair or try desperately to put on a brave face, that we forget that God invites us to lament and cry out to him. It is through this lament then that we find strength, hope, and trust to move forward! ...more
Nate  Duriga
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a mature, biblically and theologically informed reflection on suffering prompted by the author's own suffering with incurable cancer at an early age. Drawing on the Psalms and how they spoke to the author's emotions during his crisis, with enriching insights from the commentaries of Luther and Calvin, this is a worthwhile meditation. ...more
Matt Manry
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book should be required reading for all Christians.
Anja Noordam
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I appreciated the honesty of Dr. Billings and the courage to tackle very difficult issues. No easy answers, but letting God be God.
The list that I will share this book with is growing.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thank Dr. Billings for writing this book about his faith and health. His honesty in his reflection shines bright. Billings shares a comment from a woman at his church after he was diagnosed with an incurable cancer: “God is bigger than cancer.” Her comment was one that began to remove what he calls “the fog”: a limited view of his future. The fog hindered his once wide-open view of the possibilities after receiving the diagnosis. Being there for things like his children’s growth, high school e ...more
Ben Simmons
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in connection with some of Billings other books (namely his work on participation in Calvin, and his shorter book Union with Christ). That made reading this already very interesting book a much richer experience. To see the connections between Billings capacious brand of Reformed theology, providence, the Psalms, and his own story of suffering was like watching a master at work.

More personally, I read this at a time when I needed to see that orthodox, confessional Reformed tradition,
Joan Buell
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Redefining where our hope lies

I am a retired Hospice nurse. Seven months ago, my 49 year old son-in-law died just ten months after being diagnosed with cancer. He was a believer and follower of Christ, and this had informed the way he lived and the way he died. The support from our community and our church was tremendous, as they surrounded him, my daughter, and their three young adult children. Many churches - ours included - struggle, however, in knowing how to pray. It seems we focus only on
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
How should a Christian wrestle through the agony of incurable cancer? Some are prone to a hypersupernatural sort of fatalism, praying for direct divine intervention while minimizing the need to trust doctors and medicine. Others lean towards belief in an incompetent God who’s doing the best he can under the circumstances. The biblically faithful option is the pathway of lament.

Billings writes from his own experience wrestling with multiple myeloma at 39, leaving the reader engrossed in a gut-wr
Elijah Brook
Can’t recommend enough. Our western, consumeristic culture has infiltrated Christian practice to a degree that it goes unrecognized by most. One of many results is that we have little to no biblical understanding of how to deal with the unavoidable reality of suffering.

I’ve listened to many interviews and talks with Dr. Billings over the years and I am thrilled to finally read his work. Phenomenal blend of deep theological insight and personal experience. Certainly cannot wait to read his newest
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
So many good things from this book with the caveat that Billings is a Reformed theologian and both of those perspectives dominate. He is not a theology bro, wielding the Reformed tradition like a weapon. He sensitively and wisely engages the piety of the Psalms through the classics such as Calvin. He does not shy away from his own personal biography (a cancer diagnosis) but these are theological reflections on that. The personal story is not front and center which moves this book decidedly out o ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Honestly, I haven’t been able to finish this. From the intro, the author says this was written from two perspectives. One as theologian and the other as one who is lamenting in the midst of his terminal illness.

The “lamenting” portion is culled from his journals. Yet, it was these portions I found lacking, not authentic (or not lamenting as I lament). It felt as if he was holding back.

The author’s theological perspective is right ion biblically and it was here I gained much encouragement, but
Mandy Williams
Sep 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I'm Mandy from Alabama and I just want to drop this testimony full of hope and etc
What more can I say if not to thank God and also thank Dr osuma for his marvelous work
In my health&life ,for helping me get rid of
Colon cancer also known as (bowel cancer)with the power of his herbs
don't have much to say but you out there facing any problems concerning cancer just quickly get in touch now ...
On his YouTube channel by searching Dr osuma,or write a direct mail (
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So, so good. This book was referenced in another book on Lament that I read, and I'm glad I took the time to read this one as well. It got a little heady at some points, but the rest is so good, it's worth pushing trough. He weaves theology and his own story of being diagnosed with incurable cancer at age 39. But this book is not just people impacted by cancer. It's about how we can all find our lives in Christ and rejoice in lament- whatever life throws our way. ...more
Unchong Berkey
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Rejoicing in Lament weaves the author’s online journal entries where he shared updates on his cancer treatments with his theological wrestlings about God and suffering. I appreciate the tone of authentic grappling (no trite answers or simplistic conclusions) while clinging to and engaging with God. He has incurable cancer that requires daily chemo pills and lives with the reality that his cancer most certainly will return.
Alastair Gooderham
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Helpful reflection on suffering and Life in Christ, driving us to wrestle with big questions and tensions in a thoughtful and poignant way that is never trite. Todd Billings has provided a book writ large with compassion and Christ.
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There’s a lot about this book that I found helpful, thought provoking and encouraging. I underlined a lot! I especially appreciated defining lament as trustful hope and compassion as a form of protest against the way things are.
Nathan Douthit
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot to unpack here theologically. However the author's use of the psalms I think is helpful. Definitely a book worth reading prior to being diagnosed with cancer. ...more
Ryan Wentzel
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A topic more of us need to dive deeper into. I appreciated how Billings wove his own story into the theological reflections.
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J. Todd Billings is the Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI (Th.D. Harvard). His first book, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift, won a 2009 Templeton Award for Theological Promise. His third book, Union with Christ, won a 2012 Christianity Today Book Award. His 2015 book, Rejoicing in Lament, gives a theological reflection on providence and ...more

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