Book Review: Shattered by Rip Wahlberg

Shattered by Rip Wahlberg
This is a review of Shattered, a book authored by Rip Wahlberg on surviving and thriving in the worst pains of life. Released in 2023, through Life Rich Publishing, this book follows Rip Wahlberg’s journey after losing his four-year-old son to a tragic drowning accident. Throughout this book, Rip shares the story of losing his son and explores the difficult decisions that followed his death. Even more, Wahlberg unpacks the effect it had on his and his family’s life and faith. Rip also provides a framework and witness to what he learned about God's ability to heal sorrow.

This is a short read, just a little over 110 pages, but in no way is it an easy read, as Shattered is full of vulnerability and raw emotional honesty. I do believe that it will be a helpful read for any follower of Jesus who is trapped in their pain or traveling the road of unaddressed sorrow. The reader learns how “pains in our lives become idols that we end up protecting,” and ultimately they keep us from the healing journey. [1] I think Shattered is also an important read for those who want to know how to relate to individuals who are in debilitating mourning and grief. As Rip shares in his book, we as good and well-intentioned followers of Jesus too often “cannot bear awkward silences” in these circumstances, and as a result “while rooted in good intentions” share “Christian clichés [that] are weak, shallow truths that do more harm than good.” [2] All of these ideas and more are explored in Rip’s autobiographical narrative.

As a book, Shattered is broken up into three distinct parts. In the first part of the book, Rip deals with the first year after the loss of his son. It is in this section that Rip not only somberly explores his thoughts and experiences in the year following his son's loss, but he transparently invites us into his fragility and his confession that in their pain, they had “no way of knowing how much support [they] would need to get through this.” [3] For many, they will be able to connect their journey of grief and mourning with Rip’s narrative and experiences.

Secondly, the book deals with the theological framework of pain and healing. This is a framework that Rip has come to understand through his traumatic experience. It is in this section that Rip shares how God wanted to not only touch his wound but also see and heal the pain Rip was carrying. [4] That healing journey is never as easy as it sounds. Rip shares he discovered that far too often, “we shield our pain behind morality and many kinds of distractions – even activities that look noble and redemptive on the surface – in order to avoid our pain.” [5] This maneuver of shielding our pain can include masking, numbing, memorializing, and covering our pain with good things. In Shattered, Rip covers all of those distracting behaviors and maneuvers in this second section. Realizing that most “Christians are better at covering our pain than expressing our pain,” Rip lays out several ways in which we often respond wrongly to our mourning and grief. [6] This includes the way that we have falsely and unconsciously accepted something as followers of Jesus called the Retribution Principle, where we believe that if “I do my part, then God is obligated to me to do His part.” [7] This false theological framework “entirely flips who is god when, in fact, life is hard, life is not perfect, and bad things happen to good people because life is not perfect.” [8] Rip also explores the right posture and paradigms in allowing God to see, touch, and heal our pain points.

Lastly, the third part of this book deals with what Rip has come to believe it means to survive and thrive after the worst pains of life. Here in this last section, stories are shared of the ways God is faithful to us even in the darkest moments of our lives. It is an invitation to “letting God into [our] pain too.” [9] There are some testimonies that accompany this section from those who have held on to their pain in unhelpful ways, and they share personally about what it took for them to get free. This section is followed by a chapter of testimony and tributes from each member of the Wahlberg family, and there are some final concluding thoughts from Rip. This last section is not only heart-wrenching, but it illuminates the way God has been faithful to the whole Wahlberg family, their faith, and throughout their journey with Jesus. As a family, they recognize both the help of God and the help of others, which has carried them on the journey. If anything, they own that “the journey of grief is messy and not guaranteed.” [10] There is no easy way through grief, grief is always messy, but there are better ways that we can learn to allow God to journey with us through, in, and despite our pain.
“...the journey of grief is messy and not guaranteed.” 
- Rip Wahlberg, Shattered
I have known Rip for close to twenty years, and we have formed a deep friendship over the years; serving together, podcasting together, and even hosting worship nights together. It was just when I was first getting to know Rip that I watched him lose his son Aiden. The strength and dependence on God that Rip modeled while walking through this tragic and traumatic experience is seared into my mind. I remember the disbelief that I had raging inside me when our pastor called and shared the little information he knew at that moment. Our pastor had called us to pray for a miracle as Aiden was transported to the hospital, and as Rip raced to Connecticut after receiving the news. It was just a week before the incident, that I remember this crazily bright-eyed, and spontaneously humorous, and energetic kid, as he sat on the kitchen counter in our church, entertaining us with an enthralling side-stitch-laughter. However, the other aspect of that moment that is etched in my mind is the way Rip modeled faith and grace to his family, friends, and church family, despite his unquenchable pain. I watched as Rip shared an unbelievable sermon message at the funeral of his son. All of that is present in this book. It was in that future, where I sat towards the back, still very much still in my disbelief, watching as Rip preached one of the boldest proclamations and confessions of trust in God that I ever saw. Transparently, Rip’s message was admirable and inspiring. Truthfully, somehow his message also broke me and the life of faith that I thought I lived up to that point in my journey. This book has been a long time coming, and it has been an honor to see come into print.

After losing his mother at thirteen years of age, and then later losing his four-year-old son in a drowning accident, soul-deep mourning and grief attempted to define Rip’s journey. If we are not careful, mourning and grief can define our journey as well. However, God has used these painful wounds as an opportunity for Rip to walk alongside others in their journey of mourning and grief. This book is an expression of that capacity and ministry. I believe God will continue to use Rip’s story to liberate others to find God working in, with, and through their life – even in painful and sorrowful moments. Rip’s testimony has continued to show that God can not only bring about healing in our pain points, but God can also use those areas to be ambassadors of God’s healing to others.

As an author, Rip is an individual that has been married for over twenty-eight years to his wife, living now in Lancaster Pennsylvania, where they have raised their four children and are proud first-time grandparents. As a committed follower of Jesus, Rip has served as a pastor, speaker, and host of the Discovering God Podcast. He is currently pursuing a theological master's degree at Regent University, where he also completed a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies. At a mere 110 pages, Shattered packs a powerful emotional punch that is not easily forgotten. This compelling work lays bare the author's vulnerability and honesty, making it a must-read for anyone struggling with their pain or facing deep-seated sorrow. Rip's narrative illuminates how our painful experiences can often become entrenched idols that stifle our ability to heal and move forward by God’s grace. Moreover, the book provides an invaluable resource for those seeking to support loved ones in times of intense grief and mourning. Through his deeply personal story, Rip reveals how well-intentioned clichés can inadvertently hurt rather than comfort those who are suffering. All in all, Shattered is a must-read for anyone seeking a compelling portrait of hope amid unfathomable loss and adversity.




[1] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 66
[2] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 57.
[3] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 11.
[4] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 40.
[5] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 41.
[6] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 41.
[7] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 41.
[8] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 48.
[9] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 91.
[10] Rip Wahlberg, Shattered: Surviving and Thriving After the Worst Pains of Life (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2023), 107.


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