Tim Challies reviews Hope Beyond Cure

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 1.37.17 pmI woke this morning afternoon to a number of messages informing me that Tim Challies—a prominent North American blogger—had picked up my book and written a review. I share it with you here…

It began with two devastating words: “tumor” and “incurable.” If they are not words you have ever heard, they are probably words heard by someone near you, someone you love or loved. They were words David McDonald heard as well.

McDonald had pastored for just about twenty years and by 2011 had decided to begin a new work. He and his family would leave Canberra, Australia, and move thousands of kilometers north to Darwin, a remote but needy city. They were going there to found a new church. They secured support, made the journey a couple of times, found a place to live, made all the necessary preparations, packed the truck, and sent it off. They were all ready to begin the next twenty years of ministry.

And then, just days before the big move, there was shortness of breath, numbness in the limbs. Something was wrong. Really wrong. There was a visit to the specialist and the terrible diagnosis: lung cancer. Incurable. Stage 4. Best-case scenario: he might live to see next Christmas.

In all the difficulty and in all the devastation, he needed to find hope. With the fatal diagnosis and with the best of modern medicine unable to offer the promise of health, he knew he had to look for hope beyond cure.

Hope Beyond Cure describes his search for hope. Yes, he was a pastor. Yes, he had walked with others through devastating and even terminal illness. But now it was him and now he was the one whose faith had been rocked and whose dreams had been shattered. He wasn’t ever tempted to throw away his Christian faith. Not at all. But he did realize the importance of deep and deeply satisfying answers.

Faith and reason have shaped this book. Together they have given me hope. I don’t know everything there is to know about cancer or God. I’ve studied them both, but my understanding is partial and limited. My ignorance outweighs my knowledge, even though I’m learning more day by day. But this knowledge of cancer and of God isn’t simply in my head—it’s deeply personal. I don’t just know about them—they are part of my life and my experience. I know cancer and I know God. And it’s because I know God that I believe there is real hope for those who have cancer, for those who are struggling, for those who have lost hope—for everyone.

The hope he describes is the best and truest hope because it is founded upon the best and truest reality—that God is real and that he has sent his Son into this world to redeem sinners. McDonald goes to the gospel, but he does it in such a faith-stirring and helpful way. These aren’t easy answers. These aren’t trite solutions to deep problems. These are truths drawn carefully and consistently from the Bible, and all the while combined with the strength of human experience.

Each of us knows someone who will suffer from cancer. Many who read these words will some day be diagnosed. Hope Beyond Cure is a book to read if you, like McDonald, are a Christian and suffering and need to be reminded of what is true. It is an appropriate book to hand to an unbeliever as well; it is written in a gentle and humble style that is not the least bit offensive.

As Christians, we have nothing better to offer than what the Bible tells us and no better hope than the hope it describes—a hope beyond cure. Here is a book that offers deep answers to deep questions, all the while tempered by deep wells of experience. It is powerful, it is helpful, and it comes highly recommended.

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