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Shepherd of My Soul

A review by Pastor Brian Harper, Melbourne, Australia.

The 23rd Psalm has been the source of great comfort for countless people down through the ages. It has been described as “The Shepherd Psalm” due to its opening words, “The Lord is my shepherd”. It has also been regarded as “The Funeral Psalm” for, if any part of Scripture is used in funeral service, nine times out of ten it will be Psalm 23. Furthermore, Augustine of Hippo, the great fourth-century bishop, and theologian entitled the 23rd Psalm “The Martyrs’ Hymn” due to the fact that it was heard so frequently on the lips of those early Christians just before they faced the lions, the sword of flames. Today it is given a more modern application, and another classification, for from the pen of Dr. Sokreaksa Himm we find the 23rd Psalm a source of support for those who, after many years, continue to combat the deep darkness and dreadful pain of PTSD. Here is a book which points its readers to the wisdom of the Shepherd’s Word. This is the third in a trilogy of books from Reaksa Himm, his earlier books being “Tears of my Soul” (Monarch 2003) and “After the Heavy Rain” (Monarch 2007).

I first met the author about 18 years ago during my first visit to Siem Reap. Reaksa arranged accommodation for me and also became my personal tour guide through the temples and precincts of Angkor Wat. His method of “guiding” was to provide information but also to involve me by way of questions. This format is clearly carried through in this latest book, for in reading it I have discovered personal information and pastoral exhortation, along with the practical application.

“Shepherd of my Soul” is a very honest book. It records the horrific account of Reaksa’s journey from the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia through to the “valley of deepest darkness” referred to by the Psalmist. The book leaves the reader in no doubt as to the effects of this dreadful and damaging mental condition of those gripped by this “Disorder”. To anyone who has experienced this condition, the early chapters will appear as very much a mirror to their own situation. Thus, the honesty of this book is confirmed by the history it records and the condition it portrays.

Being honest, “Shepherd of my Soul” is, therefore, most helpful, for our predisposition is to conclude that no one else has ever had to face the trials and tragedies and traumas that we have had to face. Yet, the words of the Shepherd, be it in Psalm 23 or in the wider Scriptural Canon, tell us of others who have walked the “valley”, felt the depression and experienced the darkness and sense of desertion. One only has to study the life of David or King David’s greater Son, to glean evidence of great emotional and mental torment. So in reading Reaksa’s narrative of tears and trauma and those times when God’s children experience something of “The hiddenness of God” the reader finds a strange comfort and a source of help from knowing that no trial is truly unique. Someone else has been this way before us; a point made by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Therefore, this latest publication from Reaksa, while presenting us with his past, also points us to his refuge and strength for the present and for the days to come. Hope is, therefore, the fruit of honesty and helpfulness. For here we find painful trauma linked to present truth, the truth of God’s abiding and sustaining Word. Thus this book contains not only “My Personal Reflection” but challenges us to complete “Your Review & Reflection”. As with my walkthrough Angkor Wat some 18 years ago, my dear friend and brother in Christ, Dr. Sokreaksa Himm, does not simply inform but causes us to search our own hearts and minds in light of the Shepherd and his Psalm. That is why I find this latest edition from Reaksa so exciting. It is a book well worth reading and a pastoral tool well worth having.

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