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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

"Therefore I Have Hope" (Cameron Cole)

TITLE: Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy
AUTHOR: Cameron Cole
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2018, (208 pages).

What is the worst thing that could happen to any one of us? Maybe it's losing a job or flunking out of school. Perhaps it is foreclosure of our house or the loss of our precious car. Far more than any of these things, it is about losing a loved one. Tragedy has a profound impact on our emotions. It could render us unable to function normally or to even go about the most basic of routines. We become another person in every way. Tragedies can affect anyone. From the joy of seeing the conversation of their son to the trauma of seeing him die, emotions can wreak havoc to our soul. How do we sustain a narrative of hope amid such trying times? Author Cameron Cole highlights truth that many of us know but refuse to see. He writes as follows:
"How could a person survive if one did not know the gospel? How could one subsist if one did not accept the sovereignty of God? How would one function if one did not know the possibility of joy in suffering? How could one move forward without the hope of heaven? There are some truths that mean nothing to a person who is gasping for existential air."

While eternity is of utmost importance, let that not diminish our existential state right now. If we dispel what is happening in the present insensitively, our faith might not grow. In fact, it may retard our beliefs and make us cynical. We need a way to navigate our present hopes to Christ, our Person of Hope. I love the following paragraph.
"Hope is the substance that assures you that life is worth living, when you simply cannot find a reason to make it to the next day. Hope is that expectation that maybe things will be better down the road. Hope is what tells you that—no matter how bad it seems—redemption is possible. Hope is that little light at the end of the tunnel that suggests that all of this misery is temporary, when you’re desperate for patience. Hope is the voice that says, “Don’t do it,” when suicide seems like a legitimate option."
From his own life example, he traces the anatomy of hope, and a roadmap on how we can move from hopelessness from the past; to true hope in the present; and to everlasting hope in Christ. This he does with 12 truths to help us navigate trying and tragic circumstances. His narrative of hope begins with a recognition of the initial shock, which is about the four truths of grace, gospel, resurrection, and faith. The deeper our tragic situations, the greater our need to experience the deepest grace of God. This calls for identifying with the gospel story to help us face reality of not only the present but also the reality of the future. Our hope is in the resurrection of Christ, that whatever He has said He will do; whatever He has promised, He will fulfill, and whatever we are experiencing, He will be with us. If grief hems us backward, faith helps us forward. This is not to say that grieving is not good. It is about keeping our emotions real but at the same time in check against unhealthy dispositions. That is where we come into our new normal, to describe the five truths of empathy, providence, doubt, presence, and sin. Cole invites us into his grief, to empathize with him as he and his wife grieves over the loss of their 3-year-old son, Cam. In the midst of tragedy, it is tempting for people to try to defend God by saying God had nothing to do with the adversity. God is involved, but in profound ways beyond our comprehension. For to say that God had nothing to do is to ignore His Omnipresence. At the same time, to say He is fully behind the tragedy is to paint God as some sadistic deity. Both are wrong. Better to say that God is with us all the time, through our best and our worst moments. At the cross of Christ, we see God's love for us personified. Cole shows us the need to deal with our doubts and the awareness of the presence of sin in us. Chapters 6-9 represent the angst among the grieving, and may very well be the toughest parts to read in the book. From loneliness to abandonment; anger to intense doubt; Cole presents a moving balance between hope and despair to help us navigate the difficult emotional terrains. The final part of the book deals with the "Long Haul" that involves the final three truths of joy, service, and heaven. Without this final part, hope will be incomplete. Cole continues with dismantling some of the myths and flawed understanding. Joy is not something that will eventually be made right in heaven. For if that is so, how then do we deal with the present? Rejoicing with the Lord is possible through the present and for all eternity. We can continue to serve God in spite of our present limitations.

Three Thoughts
First, this book is honest about faith and doubt; hope and despair. Cole does not mince his words about the emotional trauma that hits the heart. He takes in, internalizes it, and expresses it as fully as possible. Such honesty is important because it keeps us human. It makes us real. It prepares us against self-deception. There are many books on grief that talk about the stages of grieving as if people believe linearly from one state of shock to final acceptance. Humans are more complicated than a five-stage model. Some of the emotions like anger and bargaining could be real but they only tell a part of the whole story. We cannot simply be condensed into an emotion at any one time. Instead of focusing on an emotional aspect at a time, we are encouraged to deal with truths, using the phases of grief as a general guide. These truths can occur individually or in combination with the rest. They could happen at any time or not at all. The best thing we could do is to be honest about it and to let God lead us.

Second, seek a community support or professional help if necessary. Books can provide us important insights and ideas about what to do with our grieving. Ultimately, they can only supplement, not replace the process of grieving. For all the good things that Cole has to say about hope, we need to remember that we are not made to be alone. God has said that it is not good for man to be alone. The mourning period can very well be a lonely experience. For those of us grieving, be open to people wanting to walk with us. For those who are helping others in the grieving process, be patient. There may be times in which we don't know what to do. That is ok. The ideas in this book can inform what we say or not say.

Third, we all need hope, whether we grieve or not. The famous Charles Spurgeon reminds us: "Man was not originally made to mourn; he was made to rejoice." The presence of sin distorts that truth and makes life unbearable. The reality of pain is also part of the suffering. These will be fully dealt with when the future kingdom arrives in all its glory. With this book, we not only are equipped to help others deal with the tough times, we can also consolidate our understanding of what hope means for us not just in good or bad times, but through all times.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This Advanced Reader Copy has been provided courtesy of Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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