Rarely have I read a book that moved me the way Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love. Katherine and Jay Wolf were college sweethearts just starting out life together. He was weeks away from finishing law school. She had a budding modeling career. They had a 6-month-old baby. When Katherine suffered a sudden stroke, everything changed.
In Hope Heals, they tell the story together of their romance and marriage, her life-shattering stroke, the weeks and months of recovery and rehab, and the new normal of post-stroke life. As the book alternates from Katherine's voice to Jay's, we walk through the journey with them. They both open up about their fears and doubts, but ultimately what comes through is the hope and faith that they find in the Lord.
From the beginning of their ordeal, while Katherine was in surgery, Jay was encouraged by scripture. As he read Romans 8, he "released Katherine from my feeble grip and into God's. I knew that, though Katherine may well lose her life, she would never lose the indomitable goodness and inexplicable love of God. And neither would I." Jay became convinced that in the midst of suffering, "God's presence remains the same. He finds
us in our hurts, if we want to be found. His power to filter the worst
that life has to offer, with goodness remaining, is our greatest hope."
That faith sustained him, even as Katherine continued to struggle first to survive, then to relearn how to talk, eat, and walk. He realized, "Maybe healing just looks different from what we think it does. . . . Maybe she had already been healed as much as she would be--and if so, was that enough healing for me?"
Katherine, though grateful to be alive, says she "felt no comfort at all" in her miraculous survival. "In fact, the whole miracle thing really stung because the 'miracle' had left me unable to live normally." In God's timing, though, he reminded Katherine that he does not make mistakes, and that he knows better than we do. Jay reminds us, "Don't wait to celebrate the life you have been given, even if it looks different from the one you thought you would have."
Several things stood out about their story. First, they have a remarkable network of friends and family who surrounded them and provided for them in many ways. It's a reminder to me of the importance of family and church relationships in times of need. Their son, James, never lacked a caretaker, Jay never missed a meal, Jay's sister come home from her overseas mission post to help out, their church group kept a 24/7 vigil at the hospital for weeks. . . . the list goes on. Further, God's provision and timing were constantly evident, as was his hand in miraculous healing along the way. She wasn't supposed to survive, wasn't supposed to be able to swallow, wasn't supposed to be able to walk, but God kept proving those predictions wrong.
For his part, Jay inspired me with his selfless servant's heart for his bride. Sure, he vowed to be with her in sickness and health, but he never could have imagined the kind of care he would have to provide. The worst I have ever had to nurse my wife through is a kidney stone attack. Once that passed (haha), she was in good shape. My wife's needs are different than Katherine's, but no matter what she needs, I aspire to show her the same selfless love that Jay does for Katherine.
Katherine and Jay turned to scripture and faith in God for hope and healing. They are honest in Hope Heals about their struggles and doubts. Their narrative brought me to tears on several occasions. More importantly, their story brought me to my knees. I am grateful for their witness, and am reminded to lean on that "special kind of Christian peace that doesn't quite make sense." Katherine writes, "believing in God is not possible without also believing God. He says He is my hope and strength, and I am taking Him at His word." Amen.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
You ought to check out their web site, particularly the video they made of their story:
You might also enjoy this interview with James Robison on LifeToday:
2016 Reading Challenge: A book about suffering