Martin, Albert N. Grieving, Hope, and Solace: When a Loved One Dies in Christ. Adelphi: Cruciform Press, 2011. 116 pp. Purchase at Westminster or you can sign up as a subscriber for even greater discounts.
Pastor Albert N. Martin served as an elder at the Trinity Baptist Church of Montville, New Jersey from its inception in 1967 until 2008. Over thirty years of pastoral experience and an evident gift of pointed applicatory preaching have made Pastor Martin a widely recognized counselor and pastor. Grieving, Hope, and Solace was borne from the loss of Marilyn, his helpmate of 48 years.
Divided into four parts, Pastor Martin draws the reader into a God-glorifying, Christ-exalting view of death. He begins in the first part to deal with the important foundational perspectives and principles to understanding death. He then moves immediately to the intermediate state of where the one who died in Christ is at this very moment. (That is, after death and before Christ’s Second Coming.)
Part three turns the reader’s attention upward where it needs to be if one is to effectively and biblically grieve the loss of their loved one or friend. The final part offers a word of encouragement both to the believer and to the unbeliever.
I have worked in a funeral home the past couple of years as the Lord has enabled me to be a bi-vocational pastor (though now I am between vocational ministries). I have seen plenty of death and preached numerous funerals…for the unbeliever. It is a rare occasion when there is true faith in Christ present before, during, and after the time of death.
I share this because I write this review from that perspective–one of rarely seeing a proper biblical response to death. Sadly, most members of local congregations are not prepared to die nor have they been taught to biblically grieve the death of a loved one or friend. Albert Martin, through his own struggle to correctly grieve and give God glory at the same time has penned a resource that is clear, concise, and necessary for the church today.
Martin does not write in a vacuum and he is not a 33 year old who thinks he has more understanding than most. He writes from a passion for the glory of Christ and a want to educate and equip his larger congregation (those who read his book) to be better prepared to face the death of a loved one.
Most appreciated is his urgency to turn the subject matter away from the death of your spouse, sibling, friend, etc. and to the joys they are now experiencing in the presence of the Lord. They key, Martin argues, is to think much of Christ and less of the person who has ceased living. For when you focus on Christ, even death loses its sting.
The final two chapters offer encouragement both the believer and to the unbeliever. At first, I was curious as to why the assumption an unbeliever would even think of picking up this book. Then it dawned on me–there are many (and I do mean many…probably most) who face death thinking they have the hope of Jesus Christ only to realize they do not. The only addition I would have made here is a possible treatment of what to do if you realize now, after the fact that your loved one has died, that you are not a believer and neither was s/he. That, however, may have gone outside the scope of the book.
As with all books from Cruciform Press, Grieving, Hope, and Solace is short and powerful. This book needs to be read by every pastor if not for themselves, then for their congregation. A pastor must be able to lead and guide his congregation during these terrible times and do so in a way that brings glory to Christ. This will be a resource that you will want to have multiple copies of on your bookshelf in order to give away to members of your congregation who were just given a terminal diagnosis or have just gone through the experience of losing a loved one to death.
Furthermore, every Christian ought to read this book and think more about death. This is a problem with our culture today–there is no thought of death. Because of this, we are rarely prepared to deal with it. May this never be the case and I thank Pastor Al Martin for his work to make it such that we can all have a more Christ-honoring response to death.