Joseph, his coat, and a doctor with ME

21 August 2015

Jenny Francis reads an encouraging story of help from the Bible


The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy
Emily Ackerman
Muddy Pearl £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9


THIS book is an eye-opener. The author explains at the outset that it is “all about fighting back. It’s about reclaiming your life now you’re ill. . . You’ll find survival strategies, encouragement, practical advice and fresh ways to view your situation.”

Emily Ackerman was a busy hospital doctor and mother of two young children when she was suddenly felled by illness. Eventually ME was diagnosed. Emily’s illness proved to be severe, disabling, and protracted, forcing her to relinquish her career in medicine and to rely on her husband and mother to look after her growing children.

The losses were profound: for months she lay in bed, shocked and without the certainties of the past. “I cried out for God’s power to relieve my suffering and allow me to fulfil my life plans. What I got was God’s power changing me slowly through my struggles . . . to fulfil his plans for my life.”

Over many years, Emily experienced the long painful path of patienthood, simultaneously growing in wisdom and stature as a Christian. Recognising from the Old Testament that Joseph’s personal battles and strategies for dealing with issues of trust, hope, pain, rejection, and disempowerment mirrored her own, she used his life as a template.

This practical book is perceptively written in an accessible and contemporary style with humour, directness, and empathy. From the start, Emily grasps many nettles that severe illness throws up. She does not hesitate to write about her weaknesses and temptations.

The bite-sized chapters are carefully structured and laced with copious encouraging biblical quotations. Every aspect of daily life with illness and disability is examined, while she accepts the pain of loss and adjusting to a new and unsought lifestyle.

Lively drawings appear throughout, and Emily ends each chapter with a few pithy quotations. Unhesitatingly, she makes it clear that, even from the desert, our ultimate source of joy, meaning, and happiness is found only in God.

For those with ears to hear, this book is a real gift to all who suffer and those accompanying them. Ackerman is a sensitive and humorous writer whose medical training informs her personal experience. She offers those of us who inhabit a world of unchosen suffering a realistic way to adapt, avoiding the pit of self-centredness, as we continually learn that God never gives up on his children.


The Revd Jenny Francis is a retired psychotherapist and a priest in the diocese of Exeter.

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