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Holding on to Hope:
A Pathway Through Suffering
to the Heart of God
Nancy Guthrie
Tyndale, 130 pages, $11.99

I grow weary of Christian "How To" books, as if doing something were the way to authenticate the Christian life. I stand corrected, though, after reading Nancy Guthrie's poignantly written, non-mawkish Holding on to Hope. It is written with such pathos and honesty that one believes what the author says, for she has won her authority dearly.

Nancy, her husband, David, and their son, Matt, welcomed a newborn daughter to their family in November 1998. They named her Hope, with all the ebullience it implies. Hope died six months later of a rare metabolic disorder called Zellweger syndrome (see "Praying for Hope," CT, July 10, 2000).

The Guthries poured themselves into her fragile, precious life knowing she would die—and, in a way, waiting for her to die. This book wrestles with what you do with that, as a human in this life. The author kindly and courageously makes it clear: There are no easy answers. Guthrie recounts how, shortly after Hope's death, she was purchasing mascara:

"Will this mascara run down my face when I cry?" I asked.
The girl behind the counter assured me it wouldn't and asked with a laugh in her voice, "Are you going to be crying?"
"Yes," I answered. "I am."

This is indeed a How To book: How to be honest before people and before God. How to admit, as David Guthrie does, that "we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn't." How to face grief "head on," as she puts it, and "trudge through it, feel its full weight, and do my best to confront my feelings of loss and hopelessness with the truth of God's Word." So the How To isn't so much in the doing, but in the becoming: How to become truly human ...

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December 9, 2002

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