When you follow God in wholehearted obedience, and suddenly your entire world falls apart; when your deepest, most urgent prayers are met with silence – can faith survive?
Alain Emerson felt like the luckiest man in the world. The talented pastor of a thriving church and national director of a prayer movement, he had found and married Lindsay, his soulmate. He could never have imagined that in a matter of months he would be nursing his twenty-three-year-old wife through the final stages of cancer, and would find himself as a young widower, distraught and alone.
In Luminous Dark Alain retraces his journey through the stages of grief, pain and shock, choosing to lean into the pain and to face God with his disappointment in the dark tunnel of despair. It is here that Alain wrestles with God and with his grief.
And it is from that he emerges with a sense of having seen God’s face – the one who knows our pain, who walks beside us, suffers and weeps with us, and who ultimately restores our joy.
What people are saying
“Most of us will at some point experience the death of a loved one or another cataclysmic loss in our lives—it’s a universal experience we are usually unprepared for. Luminous Dark is a book to read before that happens, written by a young pastor who watched his 23-year-old wife die of a fast-growing cancer. He waited ten years to write the book, during which time he became aware that 'people do not know how to grieve, as no one had taught them how to wrestle with pain, how to stare darkness in the eye, how to discover permission to laugh again'.
Alain Emerson has written a beautiful and instructive memoir on his journey through grief. It’s instructive because he tells his story very honestly with great vulnerability. He doesn’t quote platitudes like 'lean into the pain' without telling you exactly what that looked like for him. He tells of the early days of trying not to let grief destroy him, finding a way to lament and protest through the Psalms. He opens his journal from those days, full of raw emotion. He tells the entire story of his journey through that dark night of the soul, that luminous dark, that led to new life and a much deeper faith.
Luminous Dark is filled with sound theology, the theology of the cross—death, burial, resurrection. It is filled with the wisdom of the ancients as well as modern-day prophets and mystics. It is a book filled with hope, one I will be recommending again and again, and will return to myself. I've not read a better book on this topic since C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.”Peri ZahndWord of Life Church Co-Pastor and Author
“Jacob’s name was changed to Israel only after he wrestled with God. The implications of that for the people of God are astounding: namely, our identity is solidified only in the aftermath of the divine-human fight. Alain Emerson has a unique authority to lead us in this conversation because he’s lived a life of faithful contention with God. Luminous Dark is a treasure because it will teach us to do the same. Pick it up and enter the fathomless depths.”Daniel GrothePastor, New Life Church Colorado
“A powerful book, not only brave and raw, but much needed in our charismatic world. It must have been a costly book to write.”Dr Lucy PeppiattPrincipal, Westminster Theological Centre
“This book is a brilliant, personal and ultimately hopeful journey through grief and beyond. I love how Alain weaves a moving personal story with powerful biblical insights, prayerful reflections and a pastor’s heart. While dealing with death, it is also about the loss, disappointment and suffering we all experience. Alain wrestles with the mystery of woundedness and the painful journey of being transformed by the love of God through suffering. If you don’t want grief to define you forever, read this book.”Peter LynasNI Director, Evangelical Alliance
“Luminous Dark is, quite simply, one of the most powerful books I have ever read. I couldn’t leave it down. Alain is a godly man, fully of integrity, warmth and depth. It is not surprising that what he has written simply oozes those qualities.The Rt Revd Harold C MillerChurch of Ireland Bishop of the Diocese of Down & Dromore
This is a book to be read by all who have experienced suffering and grief – and all who will do so in the future. It brings together the experience of a young man who faces the sudden death of his 23-year-old wife; it is illustrated by his poetic and honest journaling; and it is deeply rooted in theology and modern culture.
If you are like me, you will probably weep your way through it. Whatever else, don’t miss it! A beautifully written Christian book which should become a classic.”
“Luminous Dark is an exceptional, inspiring, deeply courageous, and moving book. It is a mediation and spiritual response to the question "what will you do with your pain?" In his book Alain encourages us to embrace the pain of loss and offers one of the most sensitive and comprehensive books on the theology of grief in our time.”Andrea WigglesworthM.Sc. Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Life Coach
“I had the painful privilege of walking with Alain through the valley of the shadow of death. It was hard watching him stare down his grief and vulnerably wrestle with God. As I read Luminous Dark I am thankful that he has told us what he saw down that tough dark road. This is a theologically thoughtful and pastorally powerful resource for us all. As Ohio band Over The Rhine sing… 'it is a beautiful piece of heartache.'”Steve StockmanAuthor of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2
“Death, especially the death of a loved one, raises hard questions that touch on the very meaning of life. Alain faces these questions with honesty and realism. He not only describes the pain that lies in death’s shadow but also how he encountered the Lord as his shepherd in helping him navigate the consequences of the loss of his beloved wife, Lindsay. Alain’s book will help restore faith and confidence in God and bring light into dark places. I thoroughly recommend it.”John LennoxChristian Apologist, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford
“Through opening up his story, Alain opens up how we see God himself. There is no gloss painted over pain but there is a beautiful melody building throughout. A painfully raw read at times, yet full of honest hope. Having now read it once I want to go back and read it again slowly, because this is a story that shines so much light on God; I need to listen again.”Helen WarnockDirector of Belfast Bible College
“This raw and unflinching book urges those who love God, but who feel only confused betrayal in the face of loss, to press on into the Father’s heart of love.Jane OundjianFounder of ‘The Bereavement Journey’ course, Holy Trinity, Brompton
As we share with Alain the transformative experience of bereavement, he takes us on a journey through a valley of silent darkness to reach a place of unexpected revelation and paradoxical joy.
This book can also help our churches to discover a new and much-needed insight into grief and loss. It offers an interpretation and a vocabulary to reach those who are hurting, and promises the potential of God’s rich and generous blessing on those who have been bereaved.”