Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The book that shouldn't have been written.
When I say that this book shouldn't have been written, I mean that according to today's standards there probably isn't very much demand for a book like this. Have you walked into a Christian bookstore lately? If you've seen the racks of bestsellers there, then you might have an inkling what I'm talking about.
Now, I haven't read many books out there on the subject of grief, but just from what I've read in various places and what I've heard in my conversations with others, it seems that the basis of this book would not put it on the bestseller list. I once heard a lady say that when she was going through a difficult time, the last thing she wanted to hear was the words of Romans 8:28.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I think that's a human reaction to grief, but I've also grown to believe that as much as we may not want to hear those words in the midst of our grief, they are precisely what we need to hear. Why should we hear these words, confront them head on, and share them with others we may be counseling through grief? Because of the words that follow in verses 29 and 30:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
If we are a part of God's flock, then He is actively using every circumstance in our lives to conform us to His image and to carry out the work He has promised to complete in us. He is not helplessly standing by observing as the world twists us and batters us only to determine how He can use those things for good. When we choose to retreat from this or indulge our tendency toward self-pity, then we can easily miss out on the times of sweetest fellowship with our Lord. By seeking little more than to simply "make it through" the hard times, we can miss out on wonderful opportunities to be molded by our Maker.
I could go on and on with my opinions about this, but I really just wanted to tell the world how wonderful this book is, and that I think every pastor or anyone who may find themselves counseling a fellow believer through the loss of a child should at least have a copy of it if not read it ahead of time. It is a wonderful insight into the lives of many historical Christian leaders who also walked through this grief in some way. It records intense emotions through their letters, poetry, and hymns while showing how the promise that the circumstances through which they walked were ordained by God to carry out the work of conforming them to the image of His Son shaped their responses to this emotion.
All of these historical accounts and documents are woven together by the author, James Bruce III, who knows all too well the grief of losing his son to a genetic kidney disorder just weeks after his birth. I felt a special connection with him as I realized that he set to work researching and compiling the stories after losing his son. They comforted and blessed him in a special way, and he ended up writing the book I had hoped to find.
Personally, I have learned so much and been so comforted to know that great men and women of the faith have walked the paths of difficulty and grief before me. And I am greatly blessed to see how these experiences resulted in their increased faith and caused them to be more like Christ on the other side of the valley. I think these stories were preserved so that we can look back on them much as the writer of Hebrews looked back on the faithful ones he recounted in chapter 11 of his writing. We see the faithfulness of God through the lives of other believers.
This is certainly not a fluffy, feel-good book, but it does properly challenge anyone who might be experiencing the same grief not to run away from God. It reassures us of His faithfulness and urges us to seek to be transformed through the experience. The author also points out, through the example of Dr. Robert Dabney how one of the greatest blessings of our grief can be the opportunity to walk with others through their future experiences with familiar emotion yet overwhelming hope and peace.
There is so much to be said about the author's weaving of the accounts to portray the progression we may experience on the journey from grief to glory. However, I know that I can't do justice to the book. I'll simply recount a portion of a prayer from the Valley of Vision that has been precious to me and is included in the Prologue in attempt to express something of the pradox of joy in the midst of suffering.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy glory in my valley.
I know some of you are getting bored of all the talk with no photos, and we'll see if we can work on that. We've just been a little preoccupied with daily stuff to drag the camera out lately. Then there's all the organization and the fact that I really need to get on the ball with organizing and backing up all the photos I already have and put the EHD to good use.
If you're not bored with the talk, then you really should check out Justin's post on a topic that's really been bothering me lately. The Biblical Distorter... umm I mean Recorder has been all abuzz since the Building Bridges Conference in November, and it's made things difficult for some churches and pastors in our area. We realize that we are truly blessed to be where we are right now and see just how far we have come.