Promises in the Dark by Dr. Eric McLaughlin strengthens the hearts of readers to persevere in God’s calling to walk with those in need. As a missionary doctor in Africa, McLaughlin knows how walking closely with those who suffer and bearing others’ burdens can easily lead to burnout or cynicism—unless we find the path to perseverance that the Lord provides.
This resource explores how to find both calling and hope, living in the tension between a difficult present and God’s promises of renewal, how to cope with despair and futility, the importance of the suffering God for those who suffer, and how the manifestations of God bring life into a dying world.
McLaughlin explores how to endure in such a yet-to-be-redeemed world as ours, which is full of tragedy and heartache, pointing to God’s promises.
Eric McLaughlin, MD, is a medical missionary with Serge in Burundi. He and his wife, Rachel, live at Kibuye Hope Hospital, where they care for patients while training national doctors as professors for Hope Africa University, a Christian Burundian University. They have the distinction of having three children born on three continents.
“As a missionary coworker of Eric’s for two years in Kenya, I attest that these ‘promises in the dark’ arise from the heart of a humble servant of Christ whom God has gifted with profound insight for the challenges faced in caring for the sick and dying without losing hope. Each chapter, and the discussion questions that follow, will serve as powerful tools for personal or group discipleship.”
Mike Chupp, MD, FACS, FCS (ECSA), Chief Executive Officer, Christian Medical and Dental Associations
“Eric McLaughlin brought me to tears with this honest look at the difficulties of the life of a compassionate caregiver. When dealing with this broken world, there are no simple answers. But there can be hope. Promises in the Dark is essential reading for anyone who walks with others through suffering and questions how to keep on going.”
Dr. Kent Brantly, Ebola survivor; coauthor of Called for Life
“Why do we love lawyer and doctor shows? We know both worlds bear extremity, suffering, and passion, and that is at the core of what intrigues and terrifies us. Eric McLaughlin, a missionary physician, engages the raw and compelling questions of what it means to be human and trust God in the face of a world that is stark and at times cruel. Eric offers no simple answers or trite truisms. Instead, he invites us to engage the questions with the confidence that there is nothing we face that Jesus has not first entered. The song sung in this brilliant book is that death is real and horrible, far more so than our antiseptic Western world can bear, but death never gets the final word. There is something about life and love that lingers far longer than heartache, and it is this story that enables us to enter all other losses with hope. This book will intensify your passion and encourage you to live the best story ever told.”
Dan B. Allender, Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology
“Eric McLaughlin’s new book, Promises in the Dark: Walking with Those in Need Without Losing Heart, profoundly impacted me at many levels. As a pastor, friend, and family member, I’ve walked in many stories of brokenness, illness, and loss which have left me feeling overwhelmed and helpless, and frustrated because I couldn’t fix things. I came away from Eric’s book realizing, once again, that God’s promises claim us more than we claim them. The pressure is off. We’re called to be servant-lovers, not omnicompetent-fixers. Hope is certain because of Jesus’s resurrection and return, but life between those glorious markers is anything but predictable and controllable. This book will be an invaluable guide for many who are tired of empty clichés and baseless formulas and long for honest reflections and encouragement for loving well, even when the healing doesn’t come.”
Scotty Smith, Pastor Emeritus, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN; teacher in residence, West End Community Church, Nashville, TN
“What does a lived-out faith look like in the throes of an African field hospital? In a world of disease, death, and brokenness—of broken promises—how does one live as a light to the world? The answers to these questions are to be found in the pages of this honest book.”
Michael Card, Songwriter, Bible teacher
“Brilliant prose! Gripping stories! Profound discernments! I love this book and will be recommending it to everyone I know.”
Dr. David Stevens, CEO Emeritus, Christian Medical & Dental Associations; author of Jesus, M.D.
“Promises in the Dark provides a transparent account of the arduous and even sometimes despairing work of medical missions in the field. McLaughlin wrestles with questions of theodicy in this book in the context of extreme poverty and disease in developing nations, and he finds hope and solace in a return to the promises of God in life and love. This book is not for the faint of heart.”
Jenny Eaton Dyer, Founder, The 2030 Collaborative
“Dr. Eric McLaughlin has walked with those who suffer. For over a decade, he has served patients well in East Africa through sacrificial medical care, and has witnessed the abject suffering of many. Yet he has heard the healing whisper of God; his voice quietly yet convincingly projecting promise of ever-present hope and inexplicable miracles. If we too are to walk with those who suffer and not lose heart, it is imperative to remember the promises of God. Dr. McLaughlin has most articulately crafted a must-read book for those who serve and hold the hand of those in need.”
Dr. Lance Plyler, Director, World Medical Mission; a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse
“Promises in the Dark is a warm lamplight to accompany pilgrims whose progress has been dampened by the doubt and discouragement that often pervade those who live amid scenes of persisting darkness. These words can give even the weariest of souls the courage to utter once more, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Andrew Greer, Dove Award–nominated singer-songwriter; author; television host of the Amazon Prime show Dinner Conversations with Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer
“To serve and live among the poor is not an easy road. I’ve seen firsthand what taking on the responsibility of the health and well-being of a rural African village looks like. It’s a walk with suffering and slow, small victories. McLaughlin and his brave community of doctors have willfully brought their families behind the dark curtain of poverty in one of the poorest corners on earth. There are stories of hard-fought hope here, along with haunting brushes with life and death. McLaughlin shows us how the burden of knowledge and conviction are gifts not to be wasted. God’s promises of faith, hope, and love far outweigh the doubts and disappointments.”
Brandon Heath, GRAMMY®-nominated, Dove Award–winning recording artist
“Ministry to those who acutely experience sin’s effects in this world leads many Christians to reconsider their calling. For those at risk of having compassion and optimism replaced by despair and cynicism, Eric McLaughlin offers much-needed hope. This hope is anchored in the promises and character of God himself. The reader will not only empathize with Eric’s honest confessions, but identify how they too can actuate these life-giving Truths.”
Mark Tatlock, President, The Master’s Academy International
“I had to stop repeatedly, often in tears, to respond to what God stirred in my heart as I read Eric’s articulate account of life in an African hospital where many die, often after much prayer for healing, with evidence pointing to recovery, yet others healed when that appeared impossible. Both experiences kept bringing Eric back to God’s Suffering Redeemer Son Jesus. Eric’s book is so passionate, articulate, raw honest—dealing with death when it looks like that person would have recovered and when many prayers had been offered for their healing, but also rejoicing when all evidence would point to death and some recover to health.”
Don Finto, Author; Pastor Emeritus, Belmont Church, Nashville, Founder, Caleb Company
“Real, honest, vulnerable, and with a depth that strikes the core is how I would describe this book. If you have served in areas of need, you can relate to each story. It gives opportunity for discussions on very pertinent issues, and maybe as we face the uncertainties and many questions with openness shall we turn to the Author and Perfecter of our faith.”
Dr. Matilda Ong’ondi, Physician and Clinical Hemato-oncologist, Kenya
“There are many books exhorting Christians to go and serve the Lord in cross-cultural contexts, but few that are meant to be read while wrestling through the sorrows and struggles they'll encounter in those situations. Eric McLaughlin has written such a book, indispensable for all who feel the pain of death and suffering in their day-to-day work.”
Matthew Loftus, Missionary Physician in Kenya and writer at MereOrthodoxy.com
“Promises in the Dark is a profound, realistic, and thought-provoking book that offers insight into the daily struggles of a missionary doctor serving disadvantaged populations. There is a shining light amidst darkness of insufficiency, despair, and hopelessness in the loving sacrifice and mercy of our Savior Jesus, who has called us to his labor. I recommend it to every coworker in the front lines of Christian service.”
Dr. Castro Mugalla, Family Physician, Iten County Referral Hospital, Iten, Kenya
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I was deeply moved by this book. The authors real, painful, and beautiful experience is so meaningful to anyone in a caring profession. His insights run deep, but not too long, and are immensely practical for a hard life of caring for others. I don’t only recommend this book, I basically got one for everyone for Christmas.
Wonderful book, should be required reading for anyone headed to work or serve in a resource limited medical setting.
T.S. Eliot once set out to discover why so much religious poetry was bad. He knew plenty of intelligent and talented Christians, so what was the issue? His conclusion was simple—religious poetry was often bad because the poet expressed how they thought they should feel, rather than how they felt. I think he nailed it. And we can use that insight to identify part of what makes some writing about faith and religion so bitingly good. The Psalms, for example. No sugar-coating going on there. "A Grief Observed," CS Lewis's raw and powerful response to his wife's death. Eric McLaughlin's book belongs in the same category. This is a book not about how a medical missionary serving the poorest of the poor is supposed to feel, but how he feels. Honesty, along with a clean and accessible prose style, makes this a crucial read for anyone who's ever tried to help others—or turned away from helping, for fear that their help might not be enough. Why don't more of us help people who are suffering? I believe one of the reasons is that getting involved exposes us to tragedy and pain. This book offers an antidote to that inaction, not by pretending tragedy won't happen, but by acknowledging it, working through it, and teaching us how to live through it, rather than running from it. It'll take you a day or two to read this book, and it'll take you the rest of your life to practice what you learn.
This is for anyone working through what it means to cling to God’s promises while facing hard times, both your own and that of others. Eric and his wife serve as medical missionaries in Africa and he has written this book as a reflection on what it means to walk with those in need without losing heart. Each chapter starts with a story of his own experience that introduces the point, and then he leads the reader to God’s word and God’s character, fleshing out the implications, both in his own situation but also further afield. Each chapter finishes with some questions for reflection, which bring the reader very closely to the issue, considering their own response to God, who he is and and how he acts. Chapters address topics such as: promise, despair, hope, time, ordinary, prayer, suffering, mystery, consolation, resurrection and redemption. I believe it would be excellent reading for anyone on the mission field (whether doctors in Africa or in other roles), but also anyone who wonders what it means to continue to cling to the promises and character of God when life is challenging.
Promises In The Dark is simply one of the best books I have ever read. Don’t think it is just about inspiring or moving stories of medical mission — though it is certainly that and each chapter is deeply moving. Any reader involved in mission or service will be the better for having read this book. But more than this, the stories Eric relates are the vehicle for his open account of trying faithfully to live the life God has lead him to, in spite of his own flawed self. His honesty about his faith struggles brings this book’s message to anyone’s circumstances. Discouragement is a faith issue. One does not have to be involved in health care or human services to be disheartened or protest the circumstances in one’s life or work or church or family. The third chapter, “Promise,” is my favorite. Referring to Jesus’s promise to make all things new, Eric writes: “I don’t know any other words in the Bible that rend my heart as much as those. It feels like a beauty that’s anchored in the very center of the earth, in the very center of the human heart. God has loved us with an everlasting love, and he is making all things new.... But what do we do with this promise? How do we reconcile our world to a promise so bold and audacious?” This ache of the human heart is part of the human condition. Believing and trusting in a God we cannot see surrounded by the world we can see is the lifelong endeavor of every Christian. The epilogue leaves us with a beautiful account of our reason to hope: “The promises of God are given to sustain us on this road. They are not ethereal abstractions, but rather promises as real and everyday as the dust of the path we walk. Though it’s never easy, we find, along the way, the reminders and the whispers that the promises are true and that the one who promises is faithful. He has placed these promises in the dark, precisely where he knows we need them. They shine in the night sky like eternal diamonds...” I loved reading Promises In The Dark. I want everyone I love to read it, too. It’s that kind of book.