Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life, by Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
This book is both an attempt to help deal with a massive issue, namely the large percentage of people who have suffered from sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences and who have the resulting struggles with mental health issues (especially depression and PTSD), addictions, and the related suite of problems that result, as well as a part of the problem. Although the authors recognize in the introduction that while about a quarter of women suffer from sexual abuse before the age of 18, about a sixth of all men (myself included) also do. And yet despite the fact that this book recognizes the fact and includes among its excellent references a book from the same publisher about the struggle men face with sexual abuse , this is a book written by, for, and largely about women, despite the fact that men suffer from abuse at similar rates to women despite the huge gulf in books written for men and women about the subject . There is some token recognition of the impact of abuse on men, but nowhere near the amount of depth and focus on the consequences of abuse for men as for women.
That said, this is a book that ought to appeal to its target market, which is Christian women who have suffered from abuse and from its related issues (including problems like abortion, suicide, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, which is mentioned many times in this book, insomnia, flashbacks and nightmares, abusive relationships, grace, forgiveness, self-condemnation, cutting, and so on). The material in this book is not for the faint of heart. If you are reading this devotional (which is divided into a 12-week program with weekend projects), you probably have enough of a personal history to be able to relate to the subject material here either on your own behalf or as a way of encouraging a loved one. If a library is full of books like this, it is probably a safe bet that the reader has a dark personal history of trauma and a fervent longing for wholeness and restoration, and this book is a worthy addition to such a library, especially if the reader is female.
In terms of its organization and structure, this book is divided into four sections, the first two of which are four weeks long, and the second two of which are two weeks long each (adding up to twelve chapters, one for each week for the devotional . The first section is called “Heart Cries,” the second “Grieving and Growing,” the third, “Hope and a Future,” and the fourth “Love and Assurance.” After the main section of the book are seven appendices that deal with specific guidance for those suffering from PTSD (which I have endured my entire life, being diagnosed with it at the age of four), general resources for survivors of abuse, and encouraging verses from the Bible. Each of the daily reading sections (five per chapter, and an additional weekend unit) have three sections, and the early ones usually have four (starting with a personal confession from one of the authors about their struggle with brokenness in some fashion, mostly heart-wrenching, including abortions, divorce, forgiving rapists and child molesters, dealing with the suicide of a child—this is not easy material to deal with – as well as having insatiable father hunger and the resulting desire for male attention and affirmation, a subject this book dwells on over and over again in some fashion. In addition, there are three other sections of an imagined but encouraging and loving letter from God offering gracious mercy and hope, a series of topical questions called “Hope on the Edge,” and a brief and passionate prayer called a “Heart Cry.”
Despite the serious and unpleasant material that this book deals with, it is ultimately a book about love and encouragement. The love letters referred to in the title are about sixty love letters that represent the internal voice of a loving heavenly Father that the authors write in as a way of providing positive self-talk for readers (presumably mostly women) who need to be reminded not to trust our feelings when it comes to knowing our worth in the eyes of God, and who need to be comforted over the uneven progress and occasional regress that results from the struggle against darkness that takes place within those who have suffered the horrors of abuse. Ultimately, this book is a reminder that the physical and mental health struggles that result from such evil are not evidence of weakness, but are rather the source of surprising strength and compassion that can help us to relate to the undeserved suffering of Jesus Christ and show the same sort of compassion and care for others that we wish for ourselves. As such, this book is an admirable example of a devotional that deals with the darkest of subjects and strives to find within it the light of the Gospel of Christ, a work that should be appreciated by many women, and hopefully at least a few men.
 Nearly all of the books I have seen on the subject of sexual abuse assume that the survivor of abuse has been a woman and deal with the issue accordingly:
 The twelve weeks in the devotional are titled as follows:
Week One: I see you and I know you.
Week Two: I cradle you in my arms.
Week Three: I comfort you.
Week Four: I remember you.
Week Five: I restore you.
Week Six: I bless you with the power to forgive.
Week Seven: I secure you in my love.
Week Eight: I accept you.
Week Nine: I send gifts that renew you.
Week Ten: I bless you with the power to release the past.
Week Eleven: I promise to love you forever.
Week Twelve: I promise you a hope and a future.