Pacing the floor during a sultry South Dakota summer night on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 2007, former Oak Harbor pastor Bruce Leiter sensed that God wanted him to write a book in everyday language about his fictional friendship with agnostic Joe Smith. The idea grew as he discovered that many Christians fail to understand basic Christian beliefs and ignore reading the Bible. The resulting book, “Doubtbusters! God Is My Shrink!” merges a fictional friendship with the amiable Joe and skeptic Holly with information as Leiter shares with them his actual life journey and reasons for faith in God and for the Bible as God’s book.
“I feel that the relationship between the real me and fictional Joe and Holly built on unconditional love is the most important part of my book along with my unusual reasons for believing in God and his victory over my depression, doubts, anger and selfish desires. Thus, the book touches our feeling, thinking and relationships,” Leiter said.
Autobiography has a touch of fiction
“I consider the book nonfiction, though, because I as myself share God’s amazing victories in my real, ‘soap-opera’ life and my unusual reasons for believing in God and taking his book seriously. It is also nonfiction because of the true tragic triumph toward the end that actually happened to my real, 81-year-old, unbelieving friend,” the 70-year-old Leiter explained. “However, it has a fictional setting in eastern Iowa with fictional characters except for me.”
Knitted into the story with Joe and Holly are Leiter’s struggle with losing his son Keith to leukemia in 1972 and God’s victory over seven years of depression, the last two of which happened while he was living in Oak Harbor, as well as his struggles with doubt, migraines and selfish desires.
“I had run away from God’s call into teaching and sales,” Leiter said. “But God used Keith’s death in 1972 to change my heart to seek his will for my vocation instead of mine.”
After his home was on the housing market one day, Leiter sold it and moved with his wife and three children to Grand Rapids, Mich. where he attended Calvin Seminary.
“I had no job, but God provided for us so I could attend school,” he said. “However, from 1979 through 1986, grief from Keith’s death and other losses in my life caught up with me. I suffered debilitating depression that caused my health retirement. In 1986, God dramatically delivered me from that disease.”
Fulfilling God’s call
After 27 years of service as a pastor, including at Oak Harbor Christian Reformed Church in the mid 1980s, Leiter moved to Hudsonville, Mich., where he retired in 2008 to fulfill God’s new call to write Christian books as his retirement ministry. He wrote “Doubtbusters! God Is My Shrink!” to help those who struggle with grief, depression, or doubt and who want their faith to grow.
“I hope that the Oak Harbor community will understand the reality of depression that I experienced the whole time we lived there (Oak Harbor) as a disease just as real as cancer. I also hope that they realize that people need psychological help to get to the bottom of depression and that God can help them, not only through those means but also through an unusual kind of prayer as he did for me. God’s healing also started before we moved from Oak Harbor, for which I’ll also be very thankful,” Leiter said.
“I also hope that the Oak Harbor community will discover many unusual reasons to believe in the God of the Bible,” he continued. “They can also come to understand that that same God is active in his people’s lives today. The book also models for Christians how God can help them build relationships with others.”
Spreading the word
Aware that his book could help the people grieving the tragic deaths of six adults and 20 children in Newtown, Conn., Leiter sent two copies of his book to their public library.
“I hope that by reading my book, people’s doubts about God will decrease, that their faith in him will increase and that they will find God’s peace in their losses,” he said. “I hope that they will be convinced that the Bible’s description of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and the rest of its history actually happened and that God is still at work today.”
“Doubtbusters! God Is My Shrink!” is available through local libraries, bookstores and online through barnesandnoble.com, Amazon.com and doubtbusters.info, where people can put the discount code 20WhoL20 in the “special promotion” space for a 20 percent discount.