It’s not every day that a youth pastor writes a book on grief. But unexpected loss propelled Cameron Cole to take up the topic, and the result is an insightful gift to the church. Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy is a fresh and powerful look at how the gospel sustains suffering Christians.
Cole’s personal experience with suffering is intense: He writes of losing his 3-year-old son suddenly and the grieving process that followed for him and his wife. He can testify to the raw and awful moments of mourning, as well as the tangible nature of God’s provision in pain and the genuine reality of hope looking forward.
The Christian market has seen many books on suffering, pain, trauma, and crisis. Some enumerate ways to comfort suffering friends (most recently, Nancy Guthrie’s What Grieving People Wish You Knew), and others offer a biblical-theological framework for suffering (for example, Don Carson’s How Long, O Lord?). Still others create space for awareness and for understanding specific types of suffering. Cole’s book filters the questions invoked by traumatic loss through the gospel, without resorting to plastic or glossy-sounding “solutions.” Its tone balances the raw honesty of grief with the genuine reality of hope—and reveals the gospel’s relevance for every season of grief.
“Throughout the journey of my worst nightmare—my descent into a dark, sad valley—the Holy Spirit would remind me of truths that comforted my soul and sustained my life.”
After the sudden death of their 3-year-old son, Cameron Cole and his wife found themselves clinging to Christ through 12 key theological truths—truths that became their lifeline in the midst of unthinkable grief.
Weaving together their own story of tragic loss and abiding faith, Cole explores these 12 life-giving truths to offer hope and comfort to those in the midst of tragedy.
Gospel Hope in Tragedy
Therefore I Have Hope is organized by seasons of grief (short-term, mid-term, and long-term), and the chapter titles are succinct words such as “resurrection,” “doubt,” “presence,” “gospel,” “heaven,” and “joy.” Each chapter wrestles with a dilemma sufferers face in the grief cycle (for example, the temptation to deny the reality of suffering, the frustration of friends who disengage with our suffering, or the awareness of our own sin while we suffer). After wrestling with the dilemma and illustrating it for those who may not have experienced crisis personally, Cole examines it through the gospel in a way that offers genuine hope to the sufferer.
For example, in the chapter titled “gospel,” Cole looks at the temptation of allowing tragedy to define our lives rather than “the good news that Jesus has defeated sin and death through his life, death, and resurrection” (39). He talks about the desire to move past grief by rushing through the mourning process or by identifying false beliefs and rooting them out, rather than looking to Christ’s performance on our behalf. He avoids simplistic resolutions to grief by sharing some of his own heartbreak and by clarifying that “the hope of the gospel in our hearts does not necessarily protect us from the physical and emotional pain from which the Father did not spare Christ” (45).
Amid this wrestling, he points readers to the concrete reality of gospel hope:
Our stories fall under Christ’s story of redemption. Your life is but a chapter in God’s greater narrative of restoring the world. Your Worst is merely a chapter in your own story. If we allow God to write our stories and to carry us through the season of darkness and despair, he will ensure that redemption constitutes the central progression of our stories. (45)
Balancing the Tension
Cole doesn’t examine the problem of evil and suffering with philosophical tenets in order to find intellectual resolution. He rather points sufferers to real, gospel-oriented hope as they wrestle with massive difficulties amid grief and pain. This book is a goldmine of truth and grace for sufferers and those walking with them.
This book is a goldmine of truth and grace for sufferers and those walking with them.
Therefore I Have Hope balances well the tension of living in the already-but-not-yet between Christ’s ascension and return. Books on grief can easily overemphasize the brokenness of this fallen world, leaving only a dim light called “heaven” at the end of the tunnel. Others focus primarily on heaven in an attempt to downplay the realities of tragedy and suffering without wrestling with them first. Cole offers what could easily be called “gritty hope,” engaging with brokenness while holding out heavenly hope.
By blending authenticity with hope, engaging with brokenness and redemption, and placing the gospel narrative over our grief stories, Cole has written an essential resource for grieving people, their friends and relatives, and lay counselors and pastors. Therefore I Have Hope is my new first choice for books to recommend to sufferers within the church.
- When Your Worst Nightmare Comes True (Collin Hansen and Cameron Cole)