A unique and valuable resource for families in crisis and those who seek to support them

January 9, 2009 – 3:30 pm

healing-familiesHealing Families: Courage and Faith in Challenging Times
Diane Marshall

soft cover, 128 pages, $18.95

Reviewed by Rachel Workman

The Catalyst, Citizens for Public Justice

In Healing Families: Courage and Faith in Challenging Times, Diane Marshall provides a unique and valuable resource for families in crisis and those who seek to support them. By integrating information regarding current cultural and social issues with specific examples of how these issues impact family functioning, Marshall helps the reader understand both the context and complexity of the various challenges that accompany post-modern family life.

The introduction provides a framework for understanding and responding to these challenges as “Christians … called to love justice and to show mercy, especially to the vulnerable, the wounded, [and] the marginalized.” In the chapters that follow, a wide variety of topics are addressed, including: work and leisure, justice issues and family life, conflict resolution and mediated breakup, challenges related to children and adolescents, addiction and recovery issues, and healing from trauma.

Marshall emphasizes that understanding and addressing these issues within the current social context requires attention to a broad range of factors, including poverty and structural inequalities based on ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and sexual orientation. She also calls attention to the pervasive cultural values of individualism and consumerism that constantly threaten to undermine our Christian calling to pursue and promote the “family values” of justice, mercy, and love.

Essential qualities that characterize healthy families (such as connectedness, acceptance, appreciation, trust, truthfulness, commitment, flexibility, and safety) are presented in a way that offers hope and encouragement for family members in various stages of their own faith journey. “From a Christian point of view,” Marshall points out, “the family is more than a basic social unit. It is a sphere where God is at work in us, shaping and moulding us so that we may share Christ’s life of love.”

Throughout the book, Marshall draws from her extensive experience as a family therapist (currently with the Institute for Family Living in Toronto) to provide practical coping strategies, helpful suggestions for family members and friends, inspirational quotes, and lists of resources for further study on each topic addressed. In addition, attention is given to the crucial role of the faith community in supporting families through times of deep pain. The final chapter provides an inspirational call to spirituality and healing that will sustain families through each passage of life, through joy and sorrow.

Healing Families is a comprehensive and engaging book that can easily be read in one sitting and referred to frequently as a source of “encouragement in the complex journey of growing—as members of families—in the love of Christ.”