Pastoral Care Under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering
Richard C. Eyer
St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1994
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quick Summary: Richard Eyer is an experienced Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastor, chaplain, and professor of over 40 years and is the author of several books. This book presents a well-balanced, practical theological perspective on pastoral care that is informed by psychology and medicine, but not controlled by it. He interacts with our current cultural perspective of individualism, relativism, and utilitarianism to explain the wide canyon between it and a Christian view of pastoral care.
The title sums it up very well. In part one, he speaks of the context of pastoral care today. Based upon Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross, he develops the theological and personal basis for pastoral care. In part two, he applies this to specific pastoral and chaplaincy situations. Part one and the Introduction of Part two provide some of the most valuable information in the book. These should be required reading for all pastors regardless of their tradition.
But this is not to say that the rest of Part two is not valuable. Eyer helps the sufferer to find God and His comfort in the midst of their suffering. He applies this theology to specific situations such as: the elderly, AIDS, death, mourning, mental illness, depression, and ethics. In these chapters, you find an informed theological and practical approach to pastoral care with the wisdom of experience and theological reflection.
Evangelical Assessment: My description of Eyer’s books is: personal, practical, pastoral, and theological. These adjectives describe this book, and I use them without reservation. He embodies his theology in these real life contexts.
Eyer’s work is thoroughly evangelical from an orthodox Lutheran perspective. Luther’s Theology of the Cross is central and applied throughout it. This keeps the work of Jesus Christ central to the entire book. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”
Eyer shows pastorally how to help the sufferer to connect with God through their suffering by answering the question, “Where is God in my suffering?” While it could be simply asking that question, it generally requires a very personal and pastoral process of leading the sufferer to the point of answering it. He does not water down or implicitly deny the truth as many approaches do, but he presents the truth in such a way that it can be received.
Eyer defines pastoral care “to be the uninvited spiritual nurturing of those suffering some kind of helplessness and loss of control over life” (13). This initially did not sound right to me. My question dealt with the “uninvited” part of it. Generally, my feeling has been that if I am not invited, then I did not feel free to just show up. Yet, in doing some further research, he is correct in defining pastoral care in this way. I am unsure how I developed my perspective on this, but I find myself being corrected at this point.
Who might this book interest? This book would interest anyone involved in pastoral care, especially pastors and chaplains. Also, I think that it may interest lay ministers and those involved in Christian-based counseling.