We are incredibly blessed in 24-7 Prayer with a number of gifted communicators and writers whose stories have been impacting hearts around the globe. But it is not just the gift of communication that has made their stories powerful and influential – but the fact that their stories are real, they come from the heart, from personal places of struggle, brokenness, pain, questions, hope and healing.
I was given the weighty privilege of reading and reviewing the manuscript of one such gifted communicator and his story. Alain Emerson of 24-7 Prayer Ireland has courageously put onto paper his journey through grief after the death of his young and beloved wife and his wrestle with God in the darkness of pain, fear, anger, unanswered questions and all that grief brings with it.
I expected it to be an emotional read. After all, I have also known grief as companion at points along my life’s journey. But I did not expect what has happened through the beautifully raw and honest words that make up Alain’s story.
As I type this, it is nearly 6 years to the day that my own dear mum passed away, 7 years since we first received the news of a rare and incurable cancer eating away at her within and speeding up the dementia that was already confusing her mind.
I remember those surreal days and nights spent at the hospice, sitting with my dying mother and finding myself praying for God in His mercy to take her home. Never would I have expected to one day pray for death rather than life as death seemed the more merciful.
And I will never forget the night my childhood bestie whose sister had just taken her own life came and sat with me. We sat together in our grief for ourselves and for one another, sometimes in quiet, sometimes talking about films, sometimes voicing to one another our questions that had no answers. Yet we were aware of another Presence sitting quietly with us as well. In His book Alain says, “In our pain and suffering God is not answering our questions, for we come to learn that they are beyond the objective explanations our rationalised minds crave. God reminds us, I AM, in the midst of the flames…God doesn’t give us answers. In the silence, He gives us Himself, bigger than our pain, beyond our explanations, closer than our breath.”
And that is something that has been consistent throughout my seasons of grief and brokenness, His presence.
Yet what I was surprised to learn about my own heart through Alain’s book was some areas of unresolved grief that explained why I have been wrestling with God about praying for certain things.
Have you ever struggled to pray for something or even stopped praying altogether, because the pain of disappointed hope, the tension of the waiting became too much?
Then you can relate I’m sure.
There were a number of unanswered prayers, death of dreams, deep disappointments in those couple of years during and after my mum’s passing. And it has dented my hope. Not so much hope in general, but hope in those specific areas of disappointment.
I don’t like feeling weak. So I have just trudged doggedly on, not allowing myself to push into the pain of the disappointments like I did the year after my mum passed away, resigning myself to life as it is in the present reality. When I have attempted to pray into these areas again, I have experienced what Alain describes here: “…I didn’t know how to rebuild anything…because every opportunity for believing again was overshadowed by a giant question mark.”
But God isn’t content with leaving me there because He has better for me. So in His tender love He brought me healing in the disguise of doing a friend a favour of reviewing a book.
It is painful yet life-giving, this re-awakening of hope and I am cautiously, tentatively stepping forward through some very wobbly prayers for the areas that have felt barren and empty. It is a place of “risky hope” like Alain calls it. Brennan Manning would refer to it as “Ruthless Trust” I think. I believe it will be worth the risk but I have to choose to take that risk.
It’s like Alain says in Luminous Dark: “I slowly became aware that the place of reorientation, the ‘spacious place’ I was being invited into, involved a corresponding decision from me. It was a decision to step over a threshold, to walk into the new. We choose and declare hope before we are fully in it…”
If you have experienced grief and loss in your life, whether that be the loss of a loved one, the death of a dream, the pain of an unfulfilled hope, then I truly believe you will find this book a helpful companion. A companion that seeks not to give you answers, but to journey with you as you wrestle with the pain, the questions and the darkness and to, somewhere along the way, discover a “luminosity.”
Luminous Dark by Alain Emerson will be published in a few days and is available for pre-order now so check out the publisher’s website and social media feeds for details: https://www.muddypearl.com