On Every Side by Karen Kingsbury was written in 2001 but it could have been based on today’s headlines. It’s a story about life and death, love and loss, good versus evil, fragile relationships, the hard things that happen in life, and the controversial topic that never sleeps – the question of the separation of church and state.
The story centers around an old but popular Jesus statue that has graced the center of Jericho Park in Bethany, Pennsylvania for more than a hundred years. The statue is special to many people in Bethany including Faith Evans, the local TV news reporter. However, a visitor arrives to file suit against the town of Bethany, claiming the statue implies a government endorsement of Christianity. Jordan Riley, the visitor who filed the suit claims the statue forces Christianity upon park visitors; but Jordan is not just a visitor. His history in Bethany has left him angry at God.
Jordan’s anger seems firmly planted in soils of resentment with roots running so deep that he might never return to his former self – one who once loved God (and Faith Evans) with all his heart.
After many years of separation, Faith and Jordan meet at a diner on the day of Jordan’s arrival in Bethany which begins a roller-coaster ride of emotions as the story plays out. Obviously, Faith’s excitement over seeing Jordan doesn’t last long. How can two people who find themselves on opposing sides of a spiritual battle remain friends?
There is sort of a play on an old Bible story wrapped up in the pages of On Every Side. The park’s name is JERICHO Park. Jordan Riley asked for a WALL to be erected around the Jesus statue. The attorney representing religious freedom for the city of Bethany is named . . . Joshua. Readers who are familiar with the Bible story about Joshua and the Battle of Jericho will understand what I’m talking about.
Faith, still recovering from her own hurts and in spite of her feelings for Jordan, remains true to her convictions. She develops a plan to save the statue, but will her plan work? Can Faith and Joshua convince the judge to not only order the temporary wall to be “torn down,” but to also allow the stature to remain visible forever for the people of Bethany?
Will Jordan Riley remain on the wrong side of religious freedom?
There’s more. Jordan had a family, a mother and a sister. You’ll need lots of tissues as you travel through the pages and memories of Jordan’s past.
There’s still more. Faith has a soft and special place in her heart for a little foster child named Rosa. Part of Faith’s job at the news station is to run her weekly Wednesday’s Child segment. Rosa is precious and Faith can’t understand why God has not provided her with a forever family. God has a plan for Rosa too and although they don’t understand it for most of the story, His plan for Rosa has everything to do with the battle over the Jesus statue.
On Every Side addresses many issues and questions we face in our own lives every day. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn’t God answering my prayer the way I want Him to? Whey am I suffering through this hard battle right now? My situation seems hopeless. Does God really have a plan in all of this?
One of the threads of encouragement woven through the pages of the battle-story is based on Deuteronomy 31:8.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
As I read the story, I thought about circumstances in my own life, both past and present, and how the Lord has promised to “go before me.” When the battle rages “on every side,” the Lord says, “I will go before you.” All we need to do is be obedient. The Lord will do the rest.
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