Return to Joy is a powerful book! I was impressed by the author’s ability to be so open and honest in telling about her experiences with childhood sexual abuse and how she learned to overcome the feelings of shame and guilt that often accompany such a tragic ordeal. The author, Bev DeSalvo, grew up in a home with an abusive father and an emotionally distant mother. From a very early age, she learned to cope by pretending everything was okay. Wearing masks became a part of her daily life and caused her to become immersed in gaining performance based acceptance. She did whatever necessary to keep the peace in her home and to avoid more painful situations. She did the best she could but it wasn’t good enough and soon, Ms. DeSalvo was contemplating suicide. At the age of nineteen, Bev accepted Christ as her Savior when invited to attend a college outreach program. It was difficult for her to accept the unconditional love of Christ but it was exactly what her heart had been longing for all of her life. The author, after learning her identity in and through Christ, begins to understand and surmount the lies she believed throughout her childhood. As Bev combats those lies with the truth of God’s Word, she quickly learns to identify and refute those lies.
Return to Joy is a story of overcoming personal tragedy and replacing it with a life filled with joy and hope. Ms. DeSalvo allowed her readers to understand the abuse she suffered as she shared very personal details about her feelings and experiences. As she shared her own experiences, she followed with questions for the reader asking if he or she had suffered similar experiences. She offered practical faith based solutions and always pointed the reader to Christ. I enjoyed the Bible study following each chapter of the book. The questions were well thought out and helped counsel the reader to move past hurtful situations.
In the book, Ms. DeSalvo has a section entitled “Where is God when bad things happen.” I’d like to share an excerpt from that section: Bev says, “I’ve had lots of people try to explain where God was when bad things happened to me. Some said He was in the room, weeping in the corner while I was being abused. That didn’t bring comfort because that would mean that God is passive. Others argued that He was doing His best to protect me, but that the perpetrator wouldn’t listen. Well, doing His best was not good enough for me. That would mean that He is impotent. I could never trust a God who is passive and weak. As I was on my knees in desperation one day, I heard Him speak into my heart. It wasn’t an audible voice, but a miraculous Spirit to spirit encounter. As I listened with spiritual ears, He revealed Himself as the God of angel armies in the heavenly battle that I can’t see. He isn’t passively and impotently standing by, observing our pain and doing nothing. God is actively engaged in heavenly warfare, and electrifying power fills heaven and earth as He wages war against the forces of evil on our behalf…” The author overcame her abuse by learning to walk by faith and shared Scripture passages and details like this throughout the book.
I think this book would be a wonderful tool for Christian counselors or those working with victims of sexual abuse but could also be used for victims of any type of abuse. The goal of this book seems to be helping a person understand and walk in their identity in Christ. By understanding how to move past suffering and pain into fullness of joy, the victim can be truly set free.
The author's writing style is easy to understand and read. There is a familiarity in her writing that causes the reader to feel as if he/she is having a confidential conversation with dear friend. After having read the book, the reader will feel equipped to take on challenges of the past and trials of the future.
This book would make a wonderful gift. It is one I will recommend often to friends and family. I will also be adding this to my personal library of counseling materials. As a lay counselor for a large church, I often find myself using materials such as these to help my clients.
I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to review Return to Joy. It was my honor and privilege to write this review although I was not encouraged in any way to give a positive review for the company. If you know anyone who has been sexually abused please share this book with them. It will bless them and help them move forward with their life.
You can purchase the book here on Amazon.