Book Review: On the Threshold of Hope


Are you looking for biblical advice on how to deal with the difficult subject of sexual abuse for yourself or a loved one? Are you counseling someone who has dealt with sexual abuse in the past? If so, then Dr. Langberg's On The Threshold of Hope is for you. This short but powerful book combines a biblical approach to overcoming the scars of sexual abuse with a concern for the emotional and social damage that such abuse causes in our world. The fact that sexual abuse is extremely common in our society and the effects are related to a host of other problems (including many addictions) means that, despite the unpleasant nature of the subject, it simply must be dealt with in a godly fashion. This book shows how to do that difficult but necessary task.

            In On The Threshold of Hope, Dr. Diane Mandt Langberg, Ph.D., a Christian counselor with many years of experience in counseling survivors of childhood sexual abuse, examines the stories of sexual abuse (a couple of which come from the Bible, most notably the story of Tamar), and examines a host of issues that accompany sexual abuse. The book is divided into five sections:

“Approaching the Subject of Sexual Abuse” (which counsels readers on how to care for themselves while reading this difficult book and what it means to be a survivor)

“Dealing With The Abuse” (which involves telling the story of abuse, the trauma of sexual abuse, the mistaken lessons survivors learn from sexual abuse, and an inside look at families prone to sexual abuse)

“What Was Damaged in the Abuse?” (which looks at the damage to body, emotions, thinking, relationships, and spirit that result from abuse)

“What Does Healing Look Like?” (which looks at healing for the body, emotions, thinking, relationships, and spirit)

“Finding Others To Help” (which looks at the search for a counselor, suggestions for people who are helping survivors of sexual abuse, and some final comments).

Make no mistake, this book is not easy reading. Though the book is short, it includes a lot of first hand commentary from survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including comments and poems from children, and it is heartbreaking to read.
            Despite (or maybe because of) this book’s personal treatment of this most unpleasant subject, it is the finest book I have read on the subject, and I have loaned my copy of the book for others to read. This book is primarily for two groups of people: those who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and wish to discover the ways it has damaged their lives and what kind of healing they need to seek from God to be whole again, and those who are helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse, whether as friends or as counselors.
The author makes the reasonable and conservative estimate that by the age of eighteen one in four women and one in six men will have experienced some form of sexual abuse[1] (some estimates I have read have been even higher than this). Therefore it’s obvious that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. If these percentages are fairly accurate, they indicate that there are a great many church members in our midst who are survivors of sexual abuse. It’s also quite likely that many of them are unaware either of the extent to which they have been wounded as well as the extent to which they can be whole again with the loving concern of others.
            Of great interest to the readers of Breaking Free Journal is the connection Dr. Langberg makes between sexual abuse and many addictions that people struggle with. For example, control tendencies and an inability to say no (which leads to excessive commitments) often spring from sexual abuse[2], dissociation and doublethink (believing two contradictory “truths” at the same time),[3] and overwhelming fear, guilt, anger and grief (which often lead to work, sex, drug, alcohol and food addictions).[4] Experiencing sexual abuse can also lead to passivity, promiscuity and/or self-harm by survivors who have learned to hate their bodies[5].
While this book is not specifically about addictions, it is a helpful and much needed reminder that sometimes addictive behaviors are not the ultimate problem, but are symptoms that mask a deeper problem that must be dealt with. Though we all would wish to live in a world without the horrible and deforming after-effects of sin (among which child abuse is among the most horrible and damaging), the prevalence of child abuse in this world demands that we show concern to our brethren who bear this heavy burden. On the Threshold of Hope explains the nature of that burden, as well as ways in which it can be alleviated.


[1]             Diane Madt Langberg, Ph.D, On the Threshold of Hope (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers: 1999), 44.
[2]             Diane Madt Langberg, Ph.D, On the Threshold of Hope (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers: 1999), 126-128.
[3]             Diane Madt Langberg, Ph.D, On the Threshold of Hope (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers: 1999), 112-115.
[4]             Diane Madt Langberg, Ph.D, On the Threshold of Hope (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers: 1999), 100-108.
[5]             Diane Madt Langberg, Ph.D, On the Threshold of Hope (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers: 1999), 89.



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