This isn’t normally my kind of book, not the type I am typically drawn to. But I thought I might at least read a little bit just to see what it is all about. I read the first few pages, then the first few sections, then the whole thing. It just kind of happened. And I enjoyed it far more than I would have thought.
In 2014, Connie Dever (wife of Mark Dever) was diagnosed with cancer. And, as so many do, she responded by writing. She began a blog to record her experience, her journey. This was not merely a medical journey but, far more importantly and of far greater interest, it was a spiritual journey. He Will Hold Me Fast, then, is a kind of travel-log, a record of her travels and travails.
The book has several noteworthy strengths. First is Dever’s honesty. She shares not only her triumphs but also her failures, not only her strengths but also her weaknesses. She is honest with her fears—both her reasonable ones and her sinful ones. She is honest about having good days and bad days, spiritual highs and spiritual lows. “If you’ve been following me on this journey you might have noticed that I’ve been changing. It’s true! And it is His doing! I have a long way to go, but I know joy that I’ve never known before. And found God’s Word and His Holy Spirit working inside me to be powerful to bring changes that I never thought possible. Fear that has been my master and bound me in many ways really has met its match. I felt fear would always rule over me. I see that it will be my lifetime foe who comes back most every day to challenge me. It will always be too strong just for me, but when I go to God and use His weapons, He will do it!”
Second is her maturity. She began this journey a seasoned Christian, but through her suffering experienced a great growth in maturity. Her suffering drove her deeper and deeper into Scripture and brought her constantly to her knees. Along the way she learned what so many Christians learn—that suffering is a powerful classroom. “I’m almost scared for Him to take it away. Afraid I will forget what I’ve learned. I don’t want to go back. I want to keep yearning to be always closer to Him. I want to grow. He’s shown me the way of fellowship with Him is reliance upon Him. In strong-willed humans like me, this seems to comes most assuredly by being made weak first.”
Third is her faith. While she experiences moments of deep sorrow and crushing lament, her faith does not merely survive, but thrives. She becomes increasingly convinced that God is at work even through this. And again, “One day we will look back in joy on even the hardest, most mysterious days and delight. It will be a panorama of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Oh, to borrow and live by the joy of that day today! That is the joy of not seeing, but faith. Praying to shine with it now! God is that good! He can be trusted with everything!”
And then there are her insights. All throughout she shares truth that is challenging, stirring, encouraging, and edifying. “Worry is what we do when we look forward godlessly. Hope is what we have when we look forward god-centeredly.” And “Why is it that this bitterest pill I’ve had to swallow is bringing the sweetest healing I’ve ever known?” And, “God hires no nannies. God is on duty! He stands watch. He knows His plans and He, Himself, brings them about. He is with His people.”
Written in an informal tone, sometimes even preserving some of the verbiage and quirks of an online journal, this is an honest, urgent, encouraging account of loss and gain. I’m so glad I read it.