Therefore I Have Hope, 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem in Tragedy, by Cameron Cole. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018. Paper, 208 pp. $14.99. [Reviewed by Mark Feenstra]
What if the worst happened? Would I lose my faith in God? Would I be able to live? For Cameron Cole, the worst was the loss of his three-year-old son, Cam. Therefore I Have Hope is the author’s story of the hope that he found alone in God’s Word and the gospel.
The author calls this story “Narrative of Hope.” The book traces his path through God’s promises, breaking the journey into three sections. The first part, the “Initial Shock,” includes bedrock truths: God’s grace, the gospel, the resurrection, and faith. Only these truths hold and sustain us when terrible things come to us.
Cole entitles the next part, “The New Normal.” How is it possible to live after the shock of bitter loss wears off? The book explores the empathy of our High Priest, Jesus Christ. It grapples with finding purpose in
God’s providence (including a brief, insightful look at Romans 8:28). It describes the author’s struggles with doubt, experience in God’s presence, and the knowledge of his sin and the grace and forgiveness obtained in Christ.
In the final section, “The Long Haul,” Cole encourages the reader who must persevere through the rest of this earthly life after the worst has come to him. The topics include true joy found alone in Jesus Christ, life and purpose found in His service, the promise of the Second Coming, and fellowship with Christ and our dear ones in heaven. He points us to our final home:
In this long journey of suffering, there is hope that a day will come when God completely eliminates your misery. It will all be over. No tears, no anxiety, no bitterness. You will be fully healed. Heaven is a real place that God has prepared for you. You will escape the fall and experience perfect union with God forever (184).
This book gives expression to real life! Cameron Cole holds nothing back. The pain he describes is very raw, the anguish excruciating. He brings the reader to the day his son died. Right with him in the scattered, confusing thoughts in the hospital, and then back to the heart-rending first time in an empty bedroom. But running through all of his story there is a true, firm reliance in the sovereign grace of God and a confession of His good purpose of salvation for His elect in Jesus Christ.
A few critiques: More than once the author goes too far in suggesting that what God had felt for Jesus while He hanged upon the cross can be compared to our human finite and imperfect feelings. He writes: “In the same way that parents who have a child with a terminal illness live in dread of the day their son or daughter will inevitably pass away, God the Father lived with that same dreadful anticipation, knowing that he had sent his Son to die on the cross” (85). This example falls short of the perfect and transcendent relationship between the Father and the Son, and raises our suffering of fear to an example that we can never comprehend.
Another mild critique: While discussing doubt, the author equates it with merely questioning “Why?” “So often religious people criminalize doubt. They mistakenly believe that it’s a sin to ask God ‘Why?’” He goes so far to say “that Job’s sin lay in his lack of doubt. His sin was over-confidence” (109). But by the end of the chapter he approaches the truth of laying your doubts (defined as confusion and incomprehension) before God and believing and focusing on God and His perfection.
I found Therefore I Have Hope to be a valuable and truthful guide through God’s Word. Those who have suffered the loss of a child will find that it will arouse memories (some painful, some beautiful) of the worst days of their lives; but the book will remind parents how God’s grace has held them close and carried them through. Any child of God who reads this book will see through God’s Word that Jesus Christ is your Hope. You will be confident in the worst trials of life, knowing and believing that His victory over sin, death, and the grave will carry you through whatever may befall you in this life.