THE SCARS THAT HAVE SHAPED ME: How God Meets Us in Suffering, by Vaneetha Rendall Risner
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Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner begged God for grace that would deliver her. But God offered something better: his sustaining grace.
In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.
John Piper talks about The Scars That Have Shaped Me
“Raw, transparent, terrifying, and yet amazingly hopeful.”
Endorsed by Paul Tripp, Nancy Guthrie, Gloria Furman, and more.
“The Scars that Have Shaped Me will make you weep and rejoice not just because it brims with authenticity and integrity, but because every page points you to the rest that is found in entrusting your life to one who is in complete control and is righteous, powerful, wise, and good in every way.”
—Paul Tripp, pastor, author, international conference speaker
“I could not put this book down, except to wipe my tears. Reading Vaneetha’s testimony of God’s kindness to her in pain was exactly what I needed; no doubt, many others will feel the same. The Scars that Have Shaped Me has helped me process my own grief and loss, and given me renewed hope to care for those in my life who suffer in various ways. Reveling in the sovereign grace of God in your pain will bolster your faith like nothing this world can offer, and Vaneetha knows how to lead you to this living water.”
—Gloria Furman, author of Missional Motherhood and Alive in Him
“When we are suffering significantly, it’s hard to receive truth from those who haven’t been there. But Vaneetha Risner’s credibility makes us willing to lean in and listen. Her writing is built on her experience of deep pain, and in the midst of that her rugged determination to hold on to Christ.”
—Nancy Guthrie, author of Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
“I have often wondered how Vaneetha Rendall Risner endures suffering with such amazing joy, grace, and perseverance. I still don’t understand that, but this book has given me a new glimpse into her world and into the character of our loving God. Raw, transparent, terrifying, and yet amazingly hopeful, The Scars that Have Shaped Me can provide strength for the journey regardless of your situation.”
—Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself
“When I’m in a hard place and needing to draw deeply into God, I want to hear from someone who knows and understands. Someone who’s been there. I can think of no better voice than Vaneetha Risner’s. In both the sudden crisis and the long, relentless daily struggle, Vaneetha’s insights have been purchased in the fire of adversity. So I listen. She leads through a door that comforts my soul and straightens my spine—I am in her debt. You will be, too, as you drink deeply the wisdom she has to offer.”
—Paula Rinehart, author of Strong Women, Soft Hearts and Sex and the Soul of a Woman
“In the unfathomable logic of God’s wisdom, this faithful woman with increasingly weakening physical strength has, of all the people I know, the most secure grip on God’s steadfast faithfulness and reliability. Her faith has helped me weather the storms in my own life, and the words in these pages will do the same for you. Vaneetha Risner is the real deal.”
—Margot Starbuck, author of The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail
“It’s hard to find words to express how vitally important Vaneetha’s testimony has been in the shaping of my life and faith. She has walked uniquely hard roads and ventured into deep spiritual waters, yet always welcomes fellow travelers like me. These pages are full of vulnerability and hope, rooted not in optimism but in the real-life experience of God’s faithfulness in suffering. It is truly oxygen to get a glimpse of God’s face through Vaneetha’s eyes.”
—Christa Wells, singer, songwriter
“In The Scars that Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha proves to be an able guide who can lead us through the valleys of tragedy and hardship with both grace and truth as she unveils the brilliant and redemptive power of God in the darkness of human misery. As her friend and pastor for many years, I can personally testify that the paths on which Vaneetha will lead the reader she has faithfully walked herself. She invites us all to see God’s sovereign and good glory in times of testing and struggle.
—Tom Mercer, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Raleigh
“The Scars that Have Shaped Me accomplishes the nearly impossible: Vaneetha tells her story of suffering—which has been, and still is, large—without drawing us into her pain. Instead, by grace and wisdom she guides us to find the way through our own sufferings into the heart of God. Somehow she lays out her story of gut-kicking suffering while captivating us with her experience of the goodness of God in the midst of her pain. The result? Our hearts are emboldened to trust and submit to Jesus. Her book is a gift to those who suffer, and to those who walk alongside them.”
—Sally Breedlove, Spiritual Director, Cofounder of Journey Mates, Author & Speaker
Joni Eareckson Tada
Before You Begin
Most people think that living with quadriplegia would be utterly overwhelming. And they’re right. It is. Shortly after I broke my neck, I met a young man in rehab who told me he had been in a wheelchair for eight years. I gulped, pushing down the panic in my throat. To me, eight weeks of paralysis seemed impossible. But eight years?! It was unimaginable to me, a spinal-cord injured teenager who still retched at the thought of living life sitting down.
But that was decades ago. I can hardly believe I’ve been living without use of my hands or legs for almost 50 years. I still look back and wonder, how did I make it to this point? And how have I done it, for the most part, with a smile? Even after all this time, total paralysis still seems impossible.
But with God all things are possible. And whenever I try to explain how I have “arrived” at this point, I shake my head in amazement.
It has everything to do with God and his grace that sustains—not just over the long haul, but grace given in tiny moments, like steppingstones leading you from one tick of the clock to the next. And the beauty of God’s grace is that it squeezes those hard moments together, eclipsing the years until one day you look over your shoulder and all you see is five decades of God at work.
Try as you may, you cannot recall the horror of it all—grace softens the edges of past pains, choosing only the highlights of eternal importance. What you are left with is peace that’s profound, joy that’s unshakable, and faith that is ironclad. It is the hard but beautiful stuff of which God makes your life. Like… when did that happen? I cannot say, but I praise God for his amazing grace.
Vaneetha Risner would say the same. Here is a woman who understands deep suffering with its sorrows and joys. Perhaps that’s why I consider her such a close friend. She gets it. She resonates with people in pain.
And she offers a special kind of wisdom to the reader in The Scars That Have Shaped Me. The book you hold in your hands is nothing short of remarkable. With each chapter, my friend tenderly turns over the steppingstones of her own journey through suffering, helping us understand the hard but beautiful stuff in our own lives… how God meets us in our suffering… and how we are changed forever in it and through it.
One more thing. Vaneetha and I both recognize that vulnerability is so necessary in communicating a powerful story. But we also realize that our testimonies won’t really reach—or even change—the life of the reader. Only the word of God can do that. And The Scars That Have Shaped Me is overflowing with snippets of psalms, slices of Scripture, and stories from the Bible that tell the story of God and his purposes in our pain. Vaneetha reminds us that God’s reasons are perfect and that our Savior, intimately acquainted with grief and suffering, is constantly pleading our case before heaven’s throne. What could be more comforting than that?
And so I am honored to write this opening statement for her book. For we both know that suffering is a strange, dark companion; but a companion, nonetheless. It’s an unwelcome visitor; but still, a visitor. Affliction is a bruising of a blessing; but it is a blessing from the hand of God. It is how God meets us in our suffering.
I pray that The Scars That Have Shaped Me will inspire and refresh your heart—especially if you are in the midst of hardships or heartaches. So get started, turn the page, and be blessed by the story of Vaneetha Risner. Before you are through, you’ll be looking over your own shoulder and seeing much more than pain and disappointment… you’ll see the unmistakably hard but truly beautiful stuff God is doing in your own life.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni and Friends International Disability Center
Agoura Hills, California