Holding on to Hope:
A Pathway Through Suffering
to the Heart of God
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 through suffering, and how to become like Jesus.
Into the narrative of her personal loss, Guthrie weaves the story of Job, the paragon of human suffering, which broadens the vision of Guthrie's book and lends insight to it. But the power of this short book is found in Guthrie's story itself, and in her spare but poetic way of telling it. "[People] want to fix me. But I lost someone I loved dearly, and I'm sad."
The book's authority heightens when Guthrie discloses halfway through that, despite surgery to prevent it, she is pregnant again. And again, this child carries Zellweger. They named him Gabriel. And he, like his sister, died at six months. The Guthries cling to the message the angel of the same name announces: Jesus. This affecting book promises those who grieve the same thing to cling to.
Wendy Murray Zoba is a senior writer for Christianity Today.
Holding on to Hope is available at Christianbook.com.
Previous Christianity Today articles on the Guthrie family include:
Praying for HopeWhat a dying infant taught her mother about God's ways. (July 21, 2000)
The Dick Staub Interview: Nancy GuthrieTwo years after sharing her story of Hope with Christianity Today, the modern Job tells of losing another child to Zellweger Syndrome. (Sept. 10, 2002)
Other stories on the family include:
In his mother's arms, in his Father's hands—The Tennessean (March 9, 2002)
Mother faces God through her grief—USA Today
Find hope and historical insight. For a limited time, explore 60+ years of CT archives for free!
- Daily devotions from Timothy Dalrymple during this pandemic.
- Hundreds of theology and spiritual formation classics from Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, John Stott, and more.
- Home delivery of new issues in print with access to all past issues online.
- View the complete archive.
- Join now and get print issues access to archive PDFs.