2 Stars: Honest Wrestling by K. Howard Joslin

Honest Wrestling is the diary account of a family's struggle to keep the faith through three miscarriages, joblessness and the loss of Ann, a wife and mother, to cancer. Their struggle is real and their diary entries are deeply sad and touching. Readers may learn worthwhile lessons from their examples. It was beautiful to read Ann's diary entries and see her continuously praising God through her pain and cancer, praying and holding out hope until the very end. It was her faith and strength that encouraged her husband, Howard Joslin, a Dallas Theological Seminary grad, to not turn against God in hatred but to hold out hope that God is good. After Ann's death, when Howard went through a period of doubting God's existence, he remembered many of Ann's prayers that God had clearly answered.

One of the most touching parts of this book was to read about Ann's faithful praises and prayers through three miscarriages. While her husband went through another period of anger towards God, she continued to hold out hope and ask God for another child in the example of a woman named Hannah in 1 Samuel. Just like Hannah, the Lord answered Ann's prayers and granted her a healthy baby girl, which she rightfully named Hannah.

Sadly, it seems the struggle Howard Joslin has with loving and trusting God is greatly magnified by his incorrect theology and beliefs about God. While Ann's diary entries are mostly filled with praises to God and hope, most of Howard's are angry, doubting and hostile towards God. From the beginning of the book to the end, Howard wrestles with questions of God's goodness, continuously asking "What the heck?" after each bump in his life: from unemployment to getting a difficult job to not getting the job he wanted. Howard's anger towards God is magnified because he believes he is entitled to good things and shakes his fist at God for not giving Howard the pleasures in life that Howard wants. Howard's theology and life are self-centered instead of god-centered. But the truth is that God doesn't owe humans anything and we should be grateful for every day that He sustains our very breath and provides for even our most basic needs. As humans, we can get so spoiled and start demanding blessings from God and forget to be thankful for each and ever blessing the Father does give us, including the blessing of life itself! Paul writes, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you."

Clips from Howard's writings:
- "But in my discouragement (over being unemployed) I couldn't bring myself to sing. How could I sing if I wasn't convinced that God really was good? He sure didn't seem like it."
- "God's encore was a failure to provide that perfect job at the symphony. It was close to the seminary, had a short work week and even paid well. What the heck?"

One of the most important lessons that can be learned from this book is to see how Howard's incorrect Arminian theology warped his worldview and lead to false beliefs about God and these false beliefs lead to false thinking, false feelings, incorrect actions and a life of anger, doubting and misery. Howard's incorrect theology was exasperated by his learning from unreliable sources: Dallas Theological Seminary (confused seminary school that teaches a confused mix between Calvinism and Arminianism) and reading Arminian authors (some with a reputation of writing "fluff") and all who teach confused theologies that do not teach the truth about man's relationship to God and the purpose of suffering: Philip Yancy, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, N.T. Wright, Duane Miller, and Richard Foster.

Clips from Howard's writings:
- If we take a closer look at Hannah's vow, we discover that it is distinctive. Most vows promise something like this, "If you do so-and-so, then I'll do such-and-such." But Hannah promises, "If you give me such-and-such, then I'll give you back such-and-such." [I fail to see the difference that Howard is referring to here. The two look the same to me.]
- A few months ago I had some rare deep thoughts. Why even bother to pray? Prayer doesn't make any ultimate difference in the outcome. However, thanks to all of you I have had to eat the words of this sentence and confess my lack of faith. [Howard has finished seminary at DTS but he still has such a faulty view of prayer and God]
- I know I was angry, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed and hurt. Where was God?
Why had God abandoned us?
- "Here are the 10 big reasons we made it through 8 rounds of chemo: Health insurance, chemo, prayer and the Bible." [Somehow Howard left God off the list? I'm pretty sure the Bible doesn't grant prayers.]
- This year's Top 10 list is similar to last Thanksgiving's list: Family and friends, chemo, prayer, the Bible, Cancer and Life. [Again, notice no God on the list?]
- "My prayer became, "Oh God. Don't you dare let Ann die before Paul (their son) gets here." [Notice again Howard's hostility towards God?]
- After Ann's death, Howard writes: "Ann, you always hated injustice. You hated the fact that incurable cancer had invaded our lives. You hated the fact that cancer might rob you of this priviledge." [What Howard is really saying is that "God is injust for allowing Ann to go through cancer and die. But this is untrue. God is always just. Howard doesn't understand the God of the Bible.]
- "Ann was robbed of growing old with me." [Howard is blaming God for "robbing" Ann and him]
- Just like his father, Howard and Ann's son Paul writes: "I did not understand how God could let her die. What had my mom done? What had my two little brothers and my sister done to deserve having to walk through the rest of their childhood without their mom? And with all the evil things happening in the world, how can God still be good? How can we trust him? [The end]" [Wow. I am deeply saddened for their son Paul. I have added this family to my prayer list, that God might direct them to come to know Him as He truly is - magnificent, all powerful, all loving, and completely just in every way. Please add them to your prayer list as well.]

Howard did mention author John Piper in his book in passing but it is clear that Howard didn't read or listen to enough of John Piper's sermons to get a correct view of God. I encourage everyone to learn about the loving, powerful, fully sovereign God of the Bible. Two of the most AMAZING teachings you will ever hear on suffering are these two sermon from John Piper, explaining God and suffering: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/why-was-this-child-born-blind and http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-works-of-god-and-the-worship-of-jesus

My disclaimer - I received this book from the publisher but I am not required to give a positive review. I always give brutally honest reviews and attempt to critically point out parts of the book that may not agree with the Bible and so not appeal to others. I want you readers to be able to confidently choose a book based on the stars I give it, because I know you have limited money, time and energy to read. So let's make the most of our lives and discern and choose the very best books wisely.



  1. Jackie, thank you for reading and interacting with my book. I'm grateful that Ann's journal entries spoke to you and I'm sure that she would love to hear details when we all hang out on the New Earth.

    John Piper's sermon on James 5 was a strong encouragement for me to trust God for physical healing and his sermons on the New Earth confirmed what I was learning about the physical, truly-human life that we will enjoy with Christ on the New Earth.


  2. I completely agree with the first part of your review. Ann's faith is prevalent and shines brightly throughout her life. She continues to praise the Lord despite her terrible circumstances.
    However, I must disagree with the second part of your review. Howard is simply asking questions that many Christians, whether they wish to admit it or not, ask when they are faced with trials. I don't believe his opinions are coming from a self-centered or godless attitude but rather an openly honest attitude, speaking the minds of many doubting believers. I believe that it is natural to go through moments of doubt, we are human after all. Most everyone doubts their faith at some point in their life and this is just Howard's way of showing Christians that it is ok to doubt your faith as long as you come back to the same conclusion: God is good and his plan's are better than mine. Howard even claims in his book, "Two fundamental questions, that we've asked over and over, are 'Does God Exist?' and 'Is God Good?' If the biblical record is true, then we can resolutely answer these two questions in the affirmative. If it is not true, then what else do we have? And since I believe it is true, I will align my theology with that record, rather than the pain of my own circumstances." (Joslin 191). He also claims, "I tenaciously cling to hope in my suffocating grief. Hope that God's justice will make it all right." (Joslin 193). If I were to claim I have never doubted God in my life, I would be lying. Even Christ, when faced with death said, "Elio, Elio, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (comes from Mark 15:34).
    Also, Howard claiming that Ann hated injustice "and the fact that incurable cancer had invaded [their] lives" does not equate to God is unjust. Rather he is stating that cancer and death are evil. When sin fell into the world death came raining after. Death, murder, rape, lies, cancer, sickness, and hate were never a part of God's plan. Yes, the omniscient God knew that these sins would take over the world, but his original plan was for us to walk eternally in the Garden of Eden with Him. However, the sin of mankind brought evil. I believe Howard is saying that cancer and death are unjust but the just and redeeming Savior will one day overcome the evil in this world and restore His perfect plan so that we will never again be separated from God. I anticipate this day with great joy.

    Howard's interview with Indie Book Publishing also shows how even though his circumstances were terrible and filled with grief, he does not base his theology and the character of God on his circumstances, but on what the bible states to be true. Howard's interview can be found at http://honestwrestling.com/interviews-sermons_273.html