Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Desperate Hope: When Faith in God Overcame My Despair by Candi Pearson-Shelton

Back when I was but a young thing in college, I was all about the Passion movement, which I'm sure many of you have heard of. Basically, Passion is a conference (I think they like to be called a movement now) for college aged students where you go and sing cool worship songs and hear fantastic speakers. I went to college near Atlanta where it just so happened Louie Giglio, Passion's founder, preached at a Bible study called 7:22. My friends and I went to that often. I also went to the first OneDay which was basically a one day (ha! it was really like 3 days) meeting on a big field. We camped out and everything. I have nothing but the very best memories of that, my friend and I were absolutely pitiful at camping!

Anyway, Candi Pearson, now Candi Pearson-Shelton was involved in worship at all of these things and I always watched her with interest. (like Christy Nockels another woman who made it in a role of leadership in this environment, but that's another story about another issue for another time) So when this book popped up for review, I was very interested in it. I have long since lost track of what Passion is doing now, but they were a huge force when I was in college and had a big hand in reshaping the worship music scene. (for better or worse--does your church only sing Chris Tomlin songs? Know what I mean?)

Desperate Hope is the story of how Candi came to terms with the death of her brother when he was only 23 years of age. It's a very raw accounting and very beautifully written. Candi doesn't tell the story in a dry way at all, she tells it through her emotional experiences. Meaning, it was hard to tell what the exact details were because the book is more about the steps of acceptance and the processes God brought her through.

While I really appreciated Candi's heart through the book, I felt the book could have used a little extra guidance. It assumes you have a certain knowledge, this is really just a nit picky thing but for example when she mentions Beth Moore, she gives her no introduction. She doesn't say, Bible teacher Beth Moore, or something like that, and for some reason this bothers me. I think because it unnecessarily limits the audience. There's just a bit too much assumption that the reader knows who Candi is and her background with Passion.

Having said that, anyone going through a really painful time in their life who wishes to turn to God for help to get through should find comfort and hope in these pages.

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: For Christians
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Cook

Substance of Hope

Oh blessed hope, sole boon of man, whereby on his straight prison walls are painted beautiful, far-reaching landscapes, and stretched into the night of very doom is spread holiest dawn. —Thomas Carlyle

If you could hope for just one thing, what would it be? What is that one hope that causes you to wake every morning and trudge through these days? Something, something in the fiber of an existence fuels each breath. If not, then what good is living? Lost hope is lost meaning, and lost meaning is void—dull, still, black. This is no life. This is more like what I imagine hell would be.

We need a marvelous hope because we need purpose. We pray for what we hope for because our entire being screams out a deep longing for it, and to lose this would be to lose ourselves. So what can be the object of this kind of hope? What is the single greatest imaginable hope?

The substance of such a worthy hope, the kind that gives purpose and meaning to this life, is recorded in the gospel of John, tucked inside one of Jesus’ prayers. Chapter 17 records what Jesus thought important enough to pray for. This was His deep longing, and in His perfect marriage of deity and humanity, He offered us a glimpse of His object of great hope. In this chapter we find Jesus praying a remarkably simple prayer that can be broken into three distinct parts.

First, He prays for Himself. In the few beginning sentences, He establishes with His father the importance of their reciprocated glory, praying that God would glorify Him so that He could in turn glorify God. He confidently confesses the beautiful fulfillment of His mission, acknowledging the work He had been sent to do was done. His primary concern for Himself, His worthy and God-centered hope, was that in the time approaching—His betrayal, arrest, and death—He would continue in the reciprocal glory between Father and Son, and God would bring Him back into the glory they shared before the beginning of the world (verses 1-5). His desire for Himself? To reveal the glory of His Father and get back to Him as soon as possible.

The second part of the prayer is for His disciples. This piece of His prayer is especially moving because it reveals His genuine affection for these men, these friends and brothers, to whom He’d grown so close. The first part reads like a proud papa spouting off a list of the things His children have accomplished. They kept His word, they accepted it as truth, and believed Jesus to be the Son of God, and they glorified the Father because of it. Jesus’ tender love is revealed as He prays according to His great hope for these men. He asks for a bond of unity, the same brand He enjoys with God His Father. He asks for His own joy to be fulfilled—literally crammed—in them. He prays that God would keep them protected from the enemy as they carry out the tasks that were entrusted to them. His great hope for His friends, His disciples? That they would exist joyfully in unity as they spread the beauty of the gospel, which is the hope of glory and the promise of being with Jesus the Savior forever in His Father’s kingdom.

The third part of this prayer is my favorite because it puts an exclamation point on Jesus’ great hope. It happens to be where we come in, too. Jesus actually prays for us—you and me—in John 17! Isn’t that an amazing discovery? Before we were even given an earthly thought, He divinely prayed for us, and we have the proof of His thoughts toward us in this chapter. His prayer for us sounds very much like those for Himself and His disciples. He prays that we, those of us to come who would believe in Him, would also enjoy the same unity that He has with His Father. He set His glory on us so that we would fully know the unity He desires for us, and so the world would see how much we are loved by the Father. Then he adds the icing:

Father, I want these whom you’ve given me to be with me, so they can see my glory. (John 17:24)

There it is: Jesus’ great hope is for us to be with Him so we can relish His supreme grandness—to see His glory. In the three-part prayer for us all, He illuminated the hope that fueled His words, His actions, His life, and His death. He wants us all to see His glory, and He desperately wants us all with Him.

This incredible truth is far easier to read and accept with eager willingness, easier to apply to our own lives, when we haven’t found ourselves in the precarious position of praying against Jesus. Trying to reconcile our hopes with the hope that is evidenced in Jesus’ prayer means that we will no doubt find ourselves pleading against the very thing Christ has already prayed for. Rick’s sickness highlighted the opposing prayers God hears, as well as the wide contrast between our sometimes selfish hope and the pure and perfect hope of Jesus. We prayed for more time here, for healing, for miraculous things, but things that ultimately kept Rick physically intact and in close proximity.

And Ricky died.

And Jesus prayed for this!

I find it hard to say anything more eloquently and God-breathed than the words Charles Spurgeon has already penned:

Thus the disciple is at cross—purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from His throne, and say, “Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?” Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, “Jesus, not my will, but Thine be done.” You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction——”Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” Lord, Thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go.

Understanding the deep ramifications of an answered prayer, one way or another, is to consider all its facets. For me, it is an astonishingly brighter mourning when a child of God returns to Him because Christ’s prayers were answered rather than my own … that the death wasn’t just a blip on the radar screen of life, or a chance occurrence among the other random happenings here on earth. This was an event that has been prayed for over the course of history. Our prayers would have only recently joined in with that of Christ’s, which continues to ring out through time for each of us who believes. He loves us more than understanding can allow us to think upon, and sometimes God grants His Son’s prayer with a “yes” answer, at the expense of our mortal but temporary wounds, and to the blissful delight of all the beings in heaven. He did with Rick, and we continue to turn the diamond of an answered prayer in order to see more facets when the Light touches them.

Now I stand with the diamond in hand—His answer to our prayers. I stand in the aftermath of hope. To say that a journey of hope can have an aftermath is fiercely accurate, as only one who has been on such a journey can know. What a mere day looks like after such a grueling journey; how small moments suddenly inflict enormous emotion; how a lifetime feels in the wake of crushing sorrow and miraculous graces intertwined—all are a part of the full experience of the aftermath.

There is more to an aftermath than a simple time of felt consequences left from the disaster that brings it about. Instead, it is more akin to a second growth from the season of pain, the harvest of our grief bringing about a second crop. The aftermath of hope is about wandering around in the rubble, finding the green mingled in with the char, picking up the pieces that aren’t burned or completely shattered, and finding in the new growth a collection of new ideas, new vision, new character, and a new, more certain hope.

And whether from talent or compulsion of the soul, there is great value in recording the gentle whispers and hard-learned faith lessons that make up the aftermath, springing up like tender shoots of vivid green grass through the contrasting blackened dry soot. These are my blades of grass, the lessons in the aftermath, told with the heart of an explorer fresh from the adventure, brimming with tales of terror and scars, of beauty and redemption.

The aftermath of hope. Hope in all its glory.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Desperate Hope by Candi Pearson-Shelton. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I like what you wrote about this book and think it would be an interesting read. I have read Beth Moore but dont think I have heard of Candi Pearson Shelton.

I am interested in the topic of Candi's book having had much loss in my life and still at times am pained by this.

Beth F said...

Humm I haven't heard of her or the Passion movement.

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