Last week I read all 101 pages of Nancy Guthrie’s Holding On To Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God. This year has been busy with quite a bit of personal loss thrown in, including a job loss and a second miscarriage. Because the year has been so busy and because the losses have seemed to pile up, I knew I needed some help quieting my heart enough to process. This book was a good start, and I’m hopeful that there are a few bits that will stick with me as I continue to work through grief and fear.
A Word About the Author
Nancy Guthrie and her husband both carry recessive genes for Zellweger Syndrome, which means that any children they would have together would have a 25% chance of having the fatal syndrome. They didn’t know this, though, until after their second child, Hope, was born with the syndrome. She died at around six months old. Holding On To Hope was written after Hope’s death, and while Nancy was unexpectedly pregnant with their third child, Gabriel, who would also die from the syndrome.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to write a book like this while pregnant with a child whom you knew would be dying soon. I know what it feels like to be in limbo with miscarriage — knowing that it’s coming and not being able to prevent it. I cannot imagine carrying a child for nine months and learning to love it in its own right all while knowing that it cannot live for more than a few months. But I also know that even when moving forward feels impossible, when you feel utterly trapped in misery and dread — the seconds, minutes, hours, and days, continue to pass. Somehow, impossible as it feels sometimes, there is grace for each day even when the grace looks like just making it through the day without having a total melt-down.
Holding On To Hope is written tenderly; it is clearly written from one who has experienced
devastation to one who is experiencing it. Even her use of the New Living Translation, and The Message instead of a translation like the ESV gives the book a comforting, personal feel (she does cite the NIV several times). She moves through the book of Job, writing 13 very brief chapters on topics like suffering, loss, despair, worship, comforters, etc. Ea
ch chapter ends with just two or three questions for the reader, asking if they will take steps Godward in these particular, painful areas. The overall effect is that the reader’s pain feels welcomed, and the sufferer feels comforted and gently exhorted to grieve in a way that
brings nearness to God.
There were many quotes that stood out to me. Like all of the best books there was nothing entirely new or revolutionary. Instead, it consisted mostly of old truths realized anew through struggle and heartache. I’ve placed some of my favorite quotes below. I hope they’re good for your soul, as they were for mine.
“Have you ever noticed that people who suffer are marked with a beauty, a deepening, a transformation? this only occurs, however, when they enter the suffering and look around for God in the midst of it. Otherwise, they are marked with bitterness and emptiness.” (p 34)
“Sometimes what God has allowed into our lives is so bitter that we’re hurt and angry and don’t even want to talk to him about it.
But where does that leave us?
On our own. No resources, no truth to dispel the despair, no hope.
The truth is, there is no comfort to be found away from God; at least, there is no lasting, deep, satisfying comfort…Only the truth of God’s Word, the tenderness of his welcome, the touch of his healing presence bring the kind of comfort we crave. Only his promises of purpose in this life and perfection in the life to come offer us any kind of real hope to hold on to.” (p 46)
“This is what I believe. It is not necessarily how I feel. but my belief does make a difference in how I feel.” (p 59)
“Submission to God’s sovereignty means bowing the knee, whether or not we have it figured out, whether or not we agree. In that submission, we find strength and grace to keep going. We even find joy in the journey.” (p 81)
(Holding On To Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God, Nancy Guthrie. Tyndale, 2004.)
[Note: This book is my Book of 100 Words or Fewer for the 2017 Tim Challies Reading Challenge.]