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Book Review: ‘Empty Arms’ by Keren Baker

June 14, 2011
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Grief LossI thoroughly recommend this great little book, although the circumstances that led Keren to write it cannot be called ‘great’, as it speaks of a parent’s worst nightmare; the reality of losing a child. But, Keren’s honesty, warmth, humility and hope amongst immense pain and grief are what makes this book great and what urges me to recommend it to you.

I wouldn’t say that it is a depressing or morbid book, as you may well be fearing, considering the subject matter. As the caption on the front of the book says, it is ‘a mother’s journey through grief to hope‘ and I think that is the key. The fact that she trusts Jesus means that she has hope, even in the face of such tragic circumstances. But Keren is also honest and realistic about the pain, which highlights her hope as real and deep; there is no room for glib answers or a shallow hope in such circumstances;

What keeps me going is the knowledge that my toughest days are never beyond the reach of [God’s] care or faithful love. He knows every time I feel that my heart is breaking and he does not remain unmoved or dispassionate. The God who watched his only Son die alone understands how alone you may feel too (page 18)

Keren speaks eloquently and personally about the huge difference trusting God made to the whole situation and how He helped them through those times in a very real way. She also speaks of the personal lessons she learned through losing her daughter, Natalie, and shows how it has changed her perspective and priorities…

It is a small, very readable and engaging book, written for a very wide audience. I’m sure it would strike an extremely personal resonance with those who have faced a tragedy of losing a child of their own, BUT it is by no means purely for people in that situation, as Keren says in her introduction;

Whatever your current situation may be, I hope that this book encourages you(page 18).

There’s even a chapter at the end of the book which offers advice on how they found people were best able to support them in their grief, where she shares how we may be able to help others, although she is careful to highlight throughout her book that grief is a highly personal and unique journey for everyone. I found that chapter helpful in giving some idea of how to  be supportive, and how to try to avoid being inadvertently unhelpful or unsympathetic, in the face of grief, as grief is something that is rarely talked of and largely avoided wherever possible.

I found this book great because it faces up to how hard life can be; it acknowledges that life isn’t as it should be and that one day God is going to put everything right. Many people can pin-point a tragedy in their own lives which made them doubt God, or even turn their back on Him…but it is so encouraging to see how that result is by no means inevitable. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, but to read about people who have faced the reality of it and come out the other side still trusting and praising God is such an encouragement. Keren’s account of her experience shows how real her hope in Jesus is and highlights the amazing difference it makes to life;

Over the years, when difficulties had entered our lives we had time and again learned to look to [God,] the one who had saved us, loved us and wanted the best for us. Being a Christian wasn’t easy but was infinitely better than living our lives without knowing God in a real way (page 29)

I’m finding it very hard to do this personal, realistic, hope-filled, gem-of-a-book justice, so I can only encourage you to read it!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 11:00 pm

    I, too, can’t imagine going through what the author went through that inspired her to write this book. It is one of my greatest fears as a parent. I believe this book has the potential to minister to people, going through similiar experiences, and other difficult experiences of trial and pain and perhaps for the rest of us that might not yet, by the grace of God, have had to have such losses, will help us encounter those who have with greater empathy and perhaps will provide us with a clearer perspective when we face those times ourselves.

    It seems that she is living out the truth expressed in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 : 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

    Great review. I’ll have to add this to my reading list 🙂

    • Natalie permalink
      June 16, 2011 7:24 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment Jessica, I totally agree 🙂 and what a brilliantly apt verse to point out – that is spot on for the reality that Keren is relaying in the book – thank you for sharing! I’m glad it’s inspired you to add it to your reading list…would love to know what you think when you get to it on your reading list!

  2. June 16, 2011 9:33 am

    Nice review Mike…added it to my reading list….Gracias 😀

  3. June 16, 2011 7:22 pm

    This sounds like a book that I might like to read!

  4. June 18, 2011 3:40 pm

    I cannot imagine what the author is going through as well. Another homeschool mom I know of lost her toddler in an accident earlier this year and I am astounded at how God’s grace undergirds these ladies helping them to go on and live another day for the purposes He has for them!!!!

    Great review – I’ll have to check it out .

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