I wish I had this book two years ago.
When my mother-in-law died of cancer at the age of 59, our family entered into a profound experience of deep grief. Losing Heather’s Mum was a long soul-wrenching experience—even though we were surrounded by a prayerful support network, had lost loved ones before, and knew our Bibles. I believe that if we had Grieving with Hope in our hands then, it would have helped us to better navigate the treacherous waters of loss.
Grieving with Hope had me at the very first page when the authors said, “You are to be commended for using the precious little energy you have to read this book, because if you’re grieving the death of a loved one or friend, you may feel you cannot go on. Picking up a book to find strength is like trying to move your car from your garage to your driveway–by lifting it” (p. 7).
I thought, “Yes–they get it!”
The authors genuinely understand the experience of grief—what it feels like, how it operates, what it is–and they speak directly and compassionately to people who are going through it right now. They maintain a great balance between comforting hurting people and gently pushing them towards loving others.
Grieving with Hope is a resource of the ministry of Church Initiative called “GriefShare.” It has sixteen chapters with clear titles that promise orientation and practical counsel for “finding comfort as you journey through loss.” The chapters are full of simple, clear, do-able advice. They don’t offer universal “steps,” but applicable principles with accompanying illustrations.
Quoting Quality Counselors
One unique feature of Grieving with Hope is that the authors interviewed and then copiously quoted over three dozen Christian leaders. They drew directly from both the leaders’ experiences of grief and their expertise in Christian counseling. Every single person who was interviewed had lost someone close to them and had wisdom to share. The list of people interviewed has some of the most recognizable names in our biblical counseling movement including Bob Kelleman, Tim Lane, Sue Lutz, David Powlison, Winston Smith, Paul Tripp, Joni Eareckson Tada and Ed Welch.
Note, however, that even though the book is full of quotes, it is not a “book of quotes.” The quotations are woven together into the fabric of the chapters to support the counsel that is being offered at each step.
Wisdom for Holy Grieving
There is a lot of wisdom in these pages. The authors give a lot of advice, but it isn’t flimsy. For example, chapter seven teaches about “Dealing with Insensitive Comforters.” The authors say to be merciful to mistaken comforters, evaluate your own expectations of what kind of comfort you will receive, and let your comforters know what is genuinely helpful to you. In chapter nine, “Making Sense of Your Situation,” they encourage grieving people to understand their suffering as a part of God’s story. Chapters eleven and thirteen offer biblical insight on both forgiveness and anger with God that cut through the cultural fog on those two perennial issues.
My biggest takeaway from Grieving with Hope, which is still bearing fruit in our ongoing grief, is the insight that grief is an expression of love. The authors quote Zig Ziglar: “Grief is the recognition that you’ve lost someone you love. It’s the price you pay for loving someone, because if there were no love, there’d be no grief” (p. 19).
I suppose that’s fairly obvious, but I keep coming back to it. It is right to grieve! Jesus did it, and so should we (John 11:35). If we don’t hurt that we’ve lost someone we love, did we really love them? I’m glad that it still hurts two years later that Heather’s Mum is no longer with us. That’s a measure of our love for her.
Grieving with Hope is a book for everyone. Any literate Christian adult can profit from reading it. It isn’t written just for men or women, or older people or younger, or a certain economic class, or for those who have lost a certain kind of loved-one (spouse, child, friend, parent, etc).
But because it’s written for anyone, it can come across as somewhat generalized. While the quotations and stories do give it some particularity, it can seem a little impersonal at times. I think it would be best to read it in groups where people share their experience and flesh out the principles even more.
Just wait long enough, and you will be bereaved. Everyone—everyone!—goes through this on some level because death is universal. But not everyone goes through grief with hope, and this book reminds its readers about the hope we have in Jesus Christ. The authors teach readers, not to “get over” their grief, but how to get through it with hope.
A month ago, I bought a boxful to give to grieving people, and I’ve already handed out three copies. I should probably order my next box now.