Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

23 April 2013

Holding on to Hope

I have read all of the anthologies Nancy Guthrie has edited  - on Christmas, Easter, suffering and on dying - more than once and have given away oh so many copies of them all.  These are truly wonderful, wonderful books.  But until recently I hadn't ever read anything written by Nancy Guthrie herself.
But now I have. 
Nancy Guthrie and her husband lost a baby daughter at six months of age to Zellwegers's Syndrome.  Hope's condition was discovered at birth and the Guthries spent the next six months loving their precious daughter and painfully anticipating her death.  As carriers of this syndrome, the Guthries took surgical steps to prevent them from having further children.  The procedure reversed itself and a couple of years after Hope passed away, Gabriel was born, also with Zellwegers Syndrome.  He passed away one day short of turning six months old.
Holding on to Hope, based around the book of Job (from the Bible), was written by Nancy Guthrie during the months between Hope's death and Gabriel's birth.  It is a book about suffering and dying, leaning on God and trusting in Him.  Like Jerry Bridges' books, it sits firmly on the foundation of God's sovereignty. 
I feel as though I have read, thought, prayed about and written quite a lot about suffering and death in the last few years.  In the western world, where life is so easy, we don't (I generalise here) manage sufffering and grief well.  We are outraged by it.  And at one level this is entirely correct.  Death is appalling.  But we rage in ways that are selfish and godless.  We think these sorts of things just shouldn't happen in this day and age.  So for me, the last few years has been about working through what ought to be a Right response when crisis comes.
What makes Holding on to Hope so very good is that it takes the theory of what is biblical in responding to suffering and grief and applies it squarely to a real life situation of horrendous suffering and grief.  There was no fist shaking at God.  Nor, at the other extreme, was there a facade of stoicism.  The grief was real.  I don't doubt that every page of her manuscript was tear stained.  But it was godly grief.  A grief founded in trust and a deeply faithful acceptance that God  had their lives and circumstances sovereignly, lovingly and wisely in hand.
This is a book to share with someone in grief.  To help them grieve well.  It concerns a specific situation - the loss of a child - but it will speak to all situations of grief.  This is a book to share with someone for whom life is good - that they might use the peaceful times to prepare for times ahead when suffering will swiftly or eventually come.  This book is inspiring and challenging and tender and gentle.  It's short - I read it over a couple of evenings.  And at least in the copy I have, there is an eight week study that digs deeply into Job and traverses the Bible on the subject of suffering and grief.  I would love to put some time into this at some stage.  And this book is an excellent companion to Nancy Guthrie's anthologies on suffering and death

Reading this book will be time well spent.  Reading it and then sharing a copy with someone else will be a gift.

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