Review: The Tears of My Soul by Sokreaksa S. Himm
I remember sitting in the auditorium at the 2013 Apologetics Canada Conference as Dr. William Lane Craig, a heavy-hitter in the area of Christian apologetics, answered a question from the audience about God and the so-called “problem of evil.” Dr. Craig suggested that there are actually two separate problems that people might have with this issue. The first is an intellectual problem with evil, which needs to be answered with philosophy and theology. The second is an emotional problem with evil, and, rather than with arguments, that problem needs to be addressed in the counselor’s chair. In Dr. Craig’s experience, when people bring up this question they are almost universally referring to the latter. It’s true that when we experience true evil and suffering, often what we don’t need are arguments about free will. Instead, what we need is to hear from someone who walked through evil and found a loving God on the other side. What we need is to hear from someone like Reaksa Himm.
In his book, The Tears of my Soul, Sokreaksa “Reaksa” Himm begins his story in 1975, the year that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took political control of Cambodia and began systematically turning the countryside into the infamous “killing fields.” The Himm family were forced from their home and trapped in a series of small jungle villages where they lived and laboured, half-starved and in constant fear of the local Khmer leaders who might execute them without warning. Two years later, the unimaginable happened and Reaksa’s entire family were brutally murdered and pushed into a mass grave. The blow Reaksa received wasn’t enough to kill him and he miraculously escaped. However, this was hardly an escape to freedom; although Reaksa ultimately fled Cambodia and came to live in Canada, the psychological trauma of losing his entire family and experiencing such evil isn’t anyone’s idea of freedom. Yet, when Reaksa met Jesus Christ, he found a love that transformed his life and sent him on a new journey into the freeing power of forgiveness.
At the surface, Reaksa’s story may be difficult to relate to because of its sheer intensity. How many of us have had to crawl out of a mass grave through the bleeding and mangled bodies of our loved ones? Yet, the overwhelming sadness, despair, and anger he experienced are universal in their application. His descriptions of the anguish he felt in his soul are haunting and raw. Yet, the real power in Reaksa’s story comes when he turns to Jesus and finds that God is right there amidst suffering:
Where was God in my suffering? He was beside me, suffering with me, crying with me. Jesus became a man so that he could know the depths of human suffering, abandonment, loneliness, and physical pain, right up to death and beyond. Only those who have known deep pain themselves can come alongside those who suffer: now I realised that God himself understands the pain. In fact he knows the path of pain intimately, because he once walked thought it – for us (The Tears of My Soul, 138).
Recognizing that our God does not hide from evil, but rather faces it and triumphs over it, allows us to learn to trust in His perfect justice and to relax in His perfect love.
At times, The Tears of my Soul, would have benefitted by some deeper theological untangling. However, this is not meant to be a treatise on the philosophical reconciling of God and the presence of evil. Rather, it is the authentic testimony of a man who experienced great evil and found great freedom in Christ. Reaksa doesn’t deign to suggest that he has all the answers to the problem of evil; instead, he points us to something far better: the knowledge that there is someone who does have all the answers, someone who bore the weight of the world’s suffering on His shoulders and who paid for it with His blood. That’s the kind of God we can trust.
Reaksa Himm will be one of the keynote speakers at the Apologetics Canada Conference 2014 addressing the problem of evil. He will be speaking on approaching the problem of evil from an experiential standpoint. Dr. Clay Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, will seek to untangle some of the philosophical and theological issues surrounding the problem of evil. Together they will offer some responses to these two aspects the problem of evil. Buy your tickets today to ensure you hear more of his powerful testimony of forgiveness!