My initial reactions to this book: gripping, riveting, compelling, page-turner, raw, intense, compassionate, revealing…. The list keeps getting longer. This is not a mere human interest story with Bible passages thrown in to “make things better.” This is a heart-wrenching revelation of what it means to be weak, and demanding, and weak, and bargaining, and loved, all seeping out through the cracks of the story.
After sharing words of sympathy and encouragement, [my aunt] ended her email saying, “People tell you to be strong—I say be weak and be loved.”
Those words of encouragement to Emily form the basis of this powerful book. Emily Cook takes the reader on an unexpected journey of what it means to be “weak and loved.” Don’t expect a standard “tragedy” story with Christian clichés (“I trusted Jesus and everything turned out great!” or “If I can do it, so can you”). While it has a happy ending, this is not an easy journey, and the words “weak and loved” become central to understanding her daughter, her husband, herself, and God, but even more “what it means to be loved and to love.”
Emily Cook draws us into her life experiences as she encounters a struggle with the illness that strikes her daughter, and which seems to spiral out of control. We see how this affects her family, and Emily herself. We get a look inside the heart of this Christian as she wrestles with her role as mother, wife, and ultimately a daughter of God.
From my experience, stories of Christians enduring trials often present the events as a semi-documentary, with only glimpses of what goes on inside the person. The circumstances themselves take on a life of their own and become central. Not so in Weak and Loved; Emily bares her soul before God, sharing fear, doubt, even sin. And now she shares it with her readers. The inner conflict, so painfully exposed on each page, yields to this confession: “Death and sickness harassed Aggie while sin, doubt, and despair harassed me.”
As the disaster unfolds in her daughter’s life, Emily faces the darkness in her own life in a realistic, honest way. How many of us would be willing to open our lives and express the despair, “God will not forsake us…but if He did, would it look much different?” She was keeping notes throughout the entire journey. Thus, we are not left with a post-tragedy reflective piece with distance and time to sand off the rough edges. No, the reader sees and feels the agony of each raw moment as the author experienced it. We are carried along with Emily in the ups and downs of the whole ordeal. And at the end we experience the life-giving surprise that was hers in real time.
How far does love go? What are the bounds of Emily’s love for her daughter? When she is at the bottom she explores her heart. Then God slowly leads her to recognize, “The grip I had on Aggie was not holding, and it was not helping her get better. I did not possess her, and I had no right to demand to keep her.” Her resistance as a mother to let go of the daughter she loved so much brings her to a realization of the God who loves her daughter even more—a battle of love that continues.
Weak and Loved is a remarkable story of clarity about the inner turmoil of a parent who questions what is happening, herself, and even God. By God’s faithful persistence in working with her in the turmoil, not removing her from it, Emily learns about God’s love for her daughter, her husband, her other children, and ultimately God’s love for her. Only then do we see this as a Mother-Daughter Love Story—or better, a mother-daughter receiving-love story.
The appendix, “On being loved in the waiting room,” is brief, but worth the price of the book. She fills the gaps for so many people who struggle in helping, serving, and knowing what to say to those in the midst of tragedies.
First chance you get, buy this book. It will draw you in, challenge you, and lead you into a new understanding of yourself, your circumstances, and God. Ultimately you will know what it means to be Weak and Loved.
Preview the book here.
Buy the book here.
Watch for it at Amazon within the next two weeks. Visit Emily’s blog today.