The Awakening is a fascinating true story of one pastor’s courageous stand against evil and the revival that resulted from it. The tale concerns a 19th century German pastor named Johann Christoph Blumhardt who’s parish was the village of Mottlingen in the Black Forest. There are two main interrelated sections in this book, Blumhardt’s helping of a young possessed woman named Gottliebin Dittus and the revival that resulted in and around the Black Forest as a result. It is also a story of persecution, as Pastor Blumhardt lost many of his friends and received the guarded censure of the church due to his involvement in this case.
The book is written by a nineteenth century Swiss pastor named Friedrich Zuendel. Zuendel truly created something beautiful with this work. While one of his intentions is the historical defense of the events surrounding Blumhardt and Gottlievin Dittus, he obviously intends to speak to the issue of the church’s reaction to extreme instances of spiritual warfare and unusual movements of the Holy Spirit as well.
The first section of the book does an extremely effective job of helping us understand the admittedly bizarre events surrounding Gottlievin Dittus. Zuendel’s account of the possession and deliverance avoids all of the pitfalls that fictional accounts (and some historical accounts) of such events fall prey to: excessive sensationalism and an over-obvious appeal to the reader’s sense of spiritual voyeurism. He handles it with care and obvious sincerity. His use of Blumhardt’s letters from the time not only lend credence to the alleged events, but also paint a picture of a very careful pastor who battled with own his feelings over the possession.
This is book that both skeptics and gluttons of possession accounts would benefit from. Skeptics will be moved, if not to the point of conviction, then at least to the point of appreciation for both Blumhardt and Dittus. Gluttons of this type of thing will see the painful reality of true demonic possession and, as a result, will be encouraged to treat the issue with more care and caution than they currently do.
In truth, I felt that the last section would be anti-climatic, given the nature of the first section, but I was wrong. Instead, Zuendel’s account of the revival surrounding Blumhardt is even more powerful. The deliverance of Gottlievin Dittus set off a fire storm of controversy and accusations. In a sense, Blumhardt’s involvement in the case set in motion events that he certainly could not control by himself. People, seekers and skeptics alike, began to flock to him. Many claimed that Blumhardt’s prayers resulted in physical and mental healings. These claims brought Blumhardt a great deal of criticism and even some restrictions from his higher ups. Yet, the fact that many people’s physical, mental and spiritual lives were greatly enriched was beyond dispute. There truly was a revival in the Black Forest.
Blumhardt’s letters show that he was no charlatan. On the contrary, they validate the contention that he was actually a man of great moderation and care when it came to matters of healing and deliverance. He struggled himself over who was and who was not being honest in their search for healing, and he even turned many people away when he felt that they were just looking for a show. This meant that Blumhardt received opposition from those on both sides of the controversy surrounding him.
I found this book to be one of the most inspirational and moving stories I have ever encountered. Blumhardt’s moderation in the midst of admittedly extreme circumstances is admirable. The churches obvious reluctance to acknowledge the revival in the midst is perhaps understandable but ultimately regrettable. There are lessons in this book for all of us today and I would encourage you to buy and read this beautiful work.