When someone approaches me who’s suffering deep pain—the kind that causes them to question the goodness of God—I’ll refer them to five books that speak boldly about theodicy, or why a good God allows evil and suffering to exist:
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
- A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
- Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey
- The Book of Job in the Bible, and
- The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason.
With the release of Guy Delcambre’s Earth & Sky: A Beautiful Collision of Grace and Grief, I have yet another devastatingly tragic-yet-hopeful book to add to this canon of theodicy.
Important note: as of this post’s publish date, Earth & Sky’s pre-order price for Kindle is only $0.99. There’s no reason you shouldn’t buy it now. The book officially releases June 10th.
Like Lewis, Delcambre suffered a grave injustice in the loss of his wife. Unlike Lewis, his wife passed at a young age and left Guy to raise their three young daughters alone. Earth & Sky is his memoir of loss and hope, a searingly well-written book that’s as captivating and challenging as it is heart-breaking and hopeful.
In full disclosure, Guy is a friend, a fellow writer I met upon first moving to Dallas. When we met, I was still grieving my divorce, and Guy had just started to write Earth & Sky. We connected over the short and tragic details of our past few years, but I still couldn’t place myself in his shoes. I couldn’t imagine still trusting in a good God when it would seem that that God had taken so much away.
Then I read Earth & Sky, fighting back tears of empathy for him and his young daughters. Though I couldn’t relate to the specifics of his history, I related all too well to the universal themes of grief, like the hope that a miracle would occur:
“My heart swelled with faith that Marianne would awaken, and I began to say so. Rescue was apparent. Death wold be subverted. God would be proven in my mind, and victory would be validated in my heart. But my faith was dictated and determined by what I wished for, not by what I knew.
For the first time in two days I left the hospital so I could clear my head and be alone. I ended up on a bench in a courtyard filled with greenery and flowers. It was peaceful. I was still very much in the violence of the storm, yet I felt at ease, mostly. I began to think and pray. I wondered if Marianne would be healed.
It would be miraculous.
I did believe.
As much as I could, I believed God for her healing.
I could see tomorrow and our life resuming. We would return home deeply grateful for God’s rescuing hand in her healing. Years would go by and the girls would grow. Life would go on. Milestones would be reached, dreams would be realized, and love would sink its roots even deeper.”
After his wife’s passing, reality sets in, and Guy finds himself in his car unable to pray, but yearning to write. He scribbles an expletive at the top of his journal, an honest word erupting from a worn-out soul:
“The promises I had held to tightly didn’t work. There was no healing, no restoration, and certainly no joy. Marianne was dead. It was the most painful fact of my life. Up to that point, I barely made it through each day. I was completely screwed up inside. For me, the entirety of hurt attached to that one word. All the horror and unbearable weight bound up in a written word that had always been off limits to me as a pastor. But it didn’t matter. I had to be honest. It all converged at that moment in this ugly confession: the sadness, the anger, the fear, the hurt. I couldn’t go one more step allowing God to exist on the periphery of my darkest time.
The dramatic expletive didn’t liberate or empower me. God did. God drew close at my weakest. Grace found me there. He put my hand back into His. I knew that forever, I would be different. Forever, I will trust Him more. Forever, I will be braver. For God is exactly who I need Him to be, everything, and beyond all that I can imagine.
I learned that God is, indeed, fully capable and deeply loving during the most frightful stretches of our lives. He hunts for those who are broken and pursues that who have fallen. When all has failed, He meets us at our deepest places and heals our deepest wounds.
Grace is blocked when we play games and put on masks. It thrives when we find the courage to be honest with God.”
Earth & Sky is one of the most vulnerable and transparent memoirs I’ve read, a heartfelt, soul-barring recounting of one man’s Job-like experience in life. Like Guy, you will yell at God for the seeming injustice of it all, but you will also see grace through the cracks and a sustaining God who understands all too well the devastation of death.
If you or someone you know has wrestled with grief and suffering, Earth & Sky is a must-read.