All You Need to Know
If you know the actual location in which I wrote my new book, Therefore I Have Hope, it will tell you everything you need to know about the book. It also will tell you about the immeasurable hope that God’s Word provides in the midst of suffering.
In the four years I spent working on the book, I wrote six revisions. As I was preparing to approach publishers after the fourth revision, somebody said to me, “You really should wait about ten years before you consider publishing it. You need some distance and perspective. I think Cam’s death is still too fresh.”
My reply: “You have fundamentally misunderstood this book.”
The Darkest Room I’ve Ever Encountered
Each one of the revisions involved refining one original concept and one original draft, which was written in the darkest room I’ve ever encountered.
Four months after my son died, I started retreating to his room—the place that he died—where I would write each night for twelve weeks. Three feet from me was the bed in which he mysteriously passed away. When I was not focusing on the laptop screen, I was staring at remnants and symbols of immeasureable pain.
Four months after my son died, I started retreating to his room—the place that he died—where I would write each night for twelve weeks.
His books, his shoes, his clothes, his art projects, his toys, his pictures, his fireman boots, his “bankie,” his teddy bear. Ordinarily precious images had become shards of shattered glass.
The setting reminded me of what I assume Jeremiah experienced while writing the book of Lamentations. This excruciating, five-chapter book of prophecy in the Old Testament is hard to read. The author recounts the atrocious details of the fall of Jerusalem. Scenes of death, starvation, abandonment, violence, exile, and humiliation dominated his consciousness as well as the scenery before him in his life.
One little glimmer of hope, wedged in the middle of the book, provides the only hint of consolation:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Nothing in Jeremiah’s circumstances could comfort him at all. The only well from which he could draw hope came from the Word of God. He intellectually called to mind Scriptural truth. He remembered the love and mercy of the Lord. He recalled the treasure he had in God himself. This word gave him the measure of comfort and grace to wait with hope for God. This word generated the patience he needed for healing.
As I initially began to write Therefore I Have Hope four months after burying my child, I really wasn’t thinking much about whether the project would be publishable. A book deal was the furthest thing from my mind.
I was writing for my life.
While my faith in Christ remained intact, I still was in so much pain from day to day that I was hanging on by a thread. The pain and sorrow of losing my son were so intense in those early days that I could not focus on anything beyond daily survival.
Every night, I would go into Cameron’s room and engage God’s truth by writing about it. Every day was a battle, and what I most needed was to remember and process the promises of God in Christ. It was my way of “holding fast to hope.”
In the beginning, I unknowingly was writing the book for myself and to myself. I was writing for my own basic survival. As God continued to heal my heart—a process that will continue for the rest of my life—my attention began to shift to serving others. With each revision of the book, my story grew smaller and God’s Word grew bigger. Why? Because I knew that his Word is what people really need when they’re gasping for existential breath.
There are two primary encouragements that I hope the book will extend to others. First, Jesus is enough to sustain, comfort, and redeem in tragedy when there are no visible signs of hope. I wrote this book—not ten years later when wounds had time to mend—but from trenches when the wound was fresh . . . oh so miserably fresh. God proved faithful in supplying hope to sustain me, even in the midst of my worst nightmare, and he can do the same for you.
Second, we find God in the same way Jeremiah did in Lamentations: through his Word. Your emotions will vacillate. Your circumstances offer little to no resources for comfort. Your experience of God’s presence may come and go. However, the Word will remain constant and true.
Calling the Word of God to mind does not eliminate pain or provide some cheap escape, but it does give the dose of hope and patience necessary to trust and believe that God can heal and redeem the most immense pain and suffering.
If nothing else, I hope Therefore I Have Hope serves to testify to the fact that God can comfort, sustain, and redeem, even in circumstances as difficult as the death of a child. I hope it demonstrates that his Word provides the most essential supply of comfort to the broken and despairing heart.
I long for this book to give people the most vital thing they need in tragedy: hope.
In the midst of pain and suffering, we must preach truth to ourselves rather than listening to the lies in our own heads.
As a parent whose child died four and a half years ago, I want to offer you two hopeful words about that wound in your heart that never will fully heal on this side of eternity.
A 7-day video devotional on ESV.org aimed at helping you run to God in the midst of trials and suffering.