Risk vs. Suffering vs. Danger {Book Club}

Or as I wanted to call this post: In which we try to drink from a fire hose.

People, if you have been around here for a while you know what I am about to say is true. I have never said, “If you can only buy one book, use your money for this book.” As a book lover, I wish / hope that you will join us and buy every book. I hope you will, but if not, I will still be here. Reading and writing, because that is what book addicts do.

However, this fall? I had better not be reading alone. Why? Because Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton is one you need to read. I do not say that lightly and I am only two chapters in, so I could be wrong. But even if I am, the first two chapters are worth your time and financial investment.

I can tell that this book is meaty. Instead of me trying to summarize the chapters, I am going to approach book club a little differently this fall. Why? Because I do not want you to confuse my paltry crumbs with the real meal (reading the book). I have been in contact with the author, Dr. Anna Hampton and she is open to us asking her questions. So some weeks I will share questions I had and her responses. Other weeks, who knows. But more than in other books, I want to push us to have conversations in the comments.

A few hours before I wrote this post, one of the women who helps with this blog asked me if I could do her work for the day. She had been attacked while coming home, and although physically okay and nothing was stolen, she was shaken up. Her emotional and spiritual well-being come before the work she does for Velvet Ashes! We skyped and did a bit of initial debriefing from the event.

Many reading this will live in places that seem “safe” on the surface. Please do not miss reading this book because you do not think it applies to you. Dr. Hampton incorporates theology that applies to all of us.

From the introduction, I marked “Mature courage helps us know whether to stand firm, move forward, or retreat to fight another day. There is a difference between courageous retreat and cowardly retreat, between courageously remaining and cowardly remaining. When we act courageously our souls are enlarged and the fruit of the Spirit becomes increasingly visible in our lives.”

She starts chapter one off with a bang. “Security is not a feeling.” Let that soak in. If you feel safe, you may be, you may not be. If you feel unsafe, you may be, you may not be.

Terminology is used that I need to keep chewing on:

  • A theology of suffering
  • A theology of risk
  • How is risk different than danger?
  • How do risk, suffering, and danger differ?

Dr. Hampton also challenges our communities to ask the right questions and gives four questions at the end of the chapter.

Between chapters one and two she asks, “What happens when a person responds with a theology-of-suffering answer to someone asking a theology-of-risk question.” This challenges me to slow down and check if I am asking a suffering or risk question. Am I giving a suffering or risk answer? Like mis-matched socks, they might function together, but do they go together?

We have talked before about the pedestal many put cross-cultural workers on. We have also talked about the ways we can rank cross-cultural workers. “Some cross-cultural workers have a misperception that pursuing risk is the highest calling, a demonstration of faith, and so they are motivated to pursue it. Very often, however, the motivations behind a person’s behavior have a significant impact on how the behavior will affect that person or someone else.” The following discussion on calling and what it means to be chosen for an assignment makes sense. But if I’m honest, I still like some calls more than others because of how they are perceived.

What new insights did you gain from these chapters? If someone were to ask you how “risk” is used in the New Testament, how would you answer them? What’s the difference between risk and danger? How much risk and danger do you experience in your context?

See you in the comments!


P.S. We will read two chapters each week, so next week we will discuss Chapters 3 and 4.


  1. Kim October 9, 2017

    She’s going to be speaking at a women’s empowerment event at our church this fall and I can’t wait to hear her share her story!

  2. Dottie October 9, 2017

    I agree with you. This is a must-read book…she also discusses the Myths that surround Risk. I will keep up with this conversation from Velvet Ashes. Thanks so much for what you do.

  3. Raven October 10, 2017

    Between writing a paper on crisis strategies for school, reading this book, and having a few experiences on the field I would say there is something that Someone is trying to show me. Can’t really escape it right now.

    One thing we covered very early in this school term is the complexity of trying to define crisis. Short and sweet, it’s difficult because we all perceive things different, so what might be a crisis to you might not be to me. I’ve run into this a lot in different areas. Petty crime and corruption is just a thing… Umm, so are we okay with this? So when she wrote this, “Just as knowing about suffering is far different from the actual experience of suffering, so is knowing about risk far different from the experience of risking one’s life.” Yes knowing and experiencing are different, but your experience and my experience are also different. Does that determine what is suffering/risk/etc. and what is not? Something I’m tossing around.

    “Risk often requires us to deal with potentially faith-shattering questions.” Umm, yes.

    Lots of meaty stuff to dig into here. I think this is a good pick! Thank you Amy for all that you do!

  4. Kiera October 10, 2017

    One thing that stuck out to me from Ch. 1 is that risk forces us to “realize the reality of how little control we truly have over our lives.” Although unsettling in the moment, I think that ultimately this is a good thing because it reminds us the God is truly in control and removes some of the temptation to rely on ourselves.

    I liked this quote from ch. 2 – “To be chosen to risk, to be chosen to enter the battle, means one is chosen by Christ and risks for Christ for no other reason than being called. Men and women who have been chosen to risk do so because of being asked, either by leadership or because of a clear calling from God.” Not everyone is called to live overseas. Also that in risk, “What happens internally is that there is a paring away, a simplifying, a narrowing of focus. The mind becomes settled on what is supremely important. Life is enjoyed in the simplest of terms.” Again, ultimately, I think a good thing.

    1. Felicity Congdon October 14, 2017

      Yes! Thank you for your comment. I was trying to figure out how she was defining risk. It just wasn’t fully sitting with me and this comment made me realize why. What feels risky for some may not feel risky for others—it’s like the title of this post—security is not a feeling, but is risk a feeling? I agree these first two chapters was a bit of a firehouse. I feel a little like I just can’t get my mind around these concepts yet. Maybe because I DO feel safe, but many of my family worrys for our safety. And also I have seen the spiritual warfare that many other workers have experienced in this country and when I think about that I do FEEL like there is risk, but is it about my feelings? I’m still a little confused about what the takeaway should be from these first two chapters. The questions in the chapter left my brain circling and unable to come up with answers. How much risk and danger to I encounter in my country? That is interesting because I’m so unaware of most of it. But the fact that i am entering another culture that is in many ways the complete opposite of mine–a culture I will
      never full understand–is maybe part of the risk.

      But I am eager to see where the author takes us.

  5. Rachel Kahindi October 11, 2017

    Theology of risk is a completely new idea to me. The Bible talks about risk? I’m amazed and pumped to read this book.

    I live in an area that is not extremely risky, but it is perceived that way by “the risk-adverse culture of North America.” Discussions about the risk in this place are based on sensational news reports, and no one has ever brought up a Biblical understanding of risk – what God says about people taking risks for the advancement of the Kingdom (assuming this place is as dangerous as CNN would have you believe). (It’s not.)

    I just finished a Bible study that had quite a lot to say about suffering (nothing about risk), and I think I’m pretty solid on this topic, then around location 460 on my Kindle in this book, I read, “A biblical understanding of risk is the prerequisite to the theology of suffering.” So… I’m working backwards. 😉

  6. Anna October 17, 2017

    I would agree with Amy that this is a book that everyone should read. Someone suggested this book to our team back in March after a kidnapping of an expat very close to where we live (less than 30miles). I had never heard of the term “theology of risk” before, and it was something our whole team needed to think through. I really appreciated the distinction between suffering and risk. So many times when we talk about risk, we’re using the verses that talk about suffering. I also found that the summaries and questions at the end of the chapter facilitate easy discussions.

    I read it then, and I’m rereading it now, after more things have happened in this area of the world, some of which required us to leave the country for a few months. With more time to think things through and some different experiences, I’m noticing some other things this time around. One of those things from the forward is “There are numerous losses experienced when going into risk, remaining in a risky situation, and when leaving risk.” This really resonated with me, as well as the idea that risk is chaotic. Now that we are back in the “risk,” it feels like standing on moving ground. The time we spent away from our ministry here disrupted plans and schedules and ministries. We lost momentum. Now we are back in the swing of things for the most part, with some changes to the way we live. I’m constantly aware that things could change again, and that it could change quickly and be disruptive (or worse than disruptive.) The good part about this, is that it has turned my eyes and thoughts more towards God. For example, I never felt so completely unprepared to start a school year as this year. We were in a church parsonage in the US, while most of our school books were on another continent. I felt like I was using all my energy to react to changes, and I hadn’t really had time to do planning. We started our school year with prayer that we would spend this year learning what God wants us to learn, academically and in other areas. This is always a desire, but it is more real when you realize you have nothing and are completely looking to Him for guidance.

    This is getting really long, and I could say much more just from my thoughts on the forward. I’ll just add a couple of things from Ch 1 & 2. I always wonder about the concept of resiliency or hardiness. What makes some people more resilient than others? I don’t have good answers to that, but I do love the example of the tree with its roots growing deep and giving it stability.

    One of the things that really stood out to me from chapter 2 was the presence of God the Father, Son, and Spirit in each of the risk situations from the Bible. For me, that’s my anchor when the world feels chaotic, the one constant that never changes.

  7. Karen October 22, 2017

    I also am so thankful we are reading this book right now. I appreciate that the author is so “real” about the fact that we are living this out in the midst of different emotions and different thoughts; that we often are in the place where we often can’t say “I’m 100% sure I’m doing the right thing.” We can trust that God is leading us without knowing the future and even in times where my own perception of whether He is telling me “yes” or “no” seems to change several times a day; He’s leading us all through that process. And as she says several times in the book, sometimes what we need to do is to keep doing the next thing in our jobs. I appreciate that this book fills me with courage to face risks, but at the same time doesn’t make me feel that it would be “bad” or a lack of faith or a cowardly thing if I choose to leave.

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