Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer
by Elizabeth W. D. Groves
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Grief Undone is the breathtakingly honest, yet hopeful account of how Elizabeth (Libbie) and Al Groves walked with God through Al’s terminal cancer. Their true story—saturated with in-the-moment Scriptural reflections, blogs, and fervent prayers—paints a stunning picture of how faith transforms the human experience of suffering.
But Grief Undone is more than the chronicle of one family’s courage in the face of cancer. At its core, Grief Undone tells a story about the God who is with his people through each and every circumstance in life. Grief Undone will inevitably display the beauty of Christ’s sustaining love for his people through trials that seemed too hard to bear. Though grief threatens to undo us, we find that we are not destroyed, but sustained by God’s presence.
Story-driven and real, Grief Undone avoids the usual traps of being preachy, gratuitous, or dismissive in the face of suffering and grief. Modeling rather than teaching about healthy and God-honoring grief, Grief Undone is uniquely practical for those who are grieving as well as the pastors, counselors, and friends who seek to help them.
Elizabeth W. D. Groves, MAR, grew up in New England and now teaches Hebrew at Westminster Theological Seminary. Libbie is the author of the book Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer and the minibook Becoming a Widow: The Ache of Missing Your Other Half. She had four children, ages thirteen and up when her husband Al died in 2007, and two granddaughters born after his death.
"Most personal reflections on grief present unfiltered emotions packaged as honesty. Or they pass off sterile truths about God's sovereignty as marks of maturity. Grief Undone avoids those extremes. Libbie shares, and understands, her raw emotions in light of God's character. The result? Readers will discover that they have permission to grieve and that God can be trusted despite the intensity of their emotions. Grief Undone is a rare gift."
Samuel J. Hodges IV, Executive Producer, GriefShare
"A lot of people write books about the loss of someone they love. Few are worth reading. This one is. Few combine honesty about the sorrow with insight into the Scripture. This one does. Few people face death holding both present sadness and future hope in their hearts at the same time. That's what Al and Libbie Groves did. And it is a beautiful thing to behold through the pages of this book."
Nancy Guthrie, Author of Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
"What do you say about a story when you know and love the people who lived and are living that story? Perhaps the most helpful thing I can say is this: Grief Undone tells the truth, in both senses of the word. It is honest—true to life. And it is True—true to Jesus. You can't say better about a book."
David Powlison, Executive Director, CCEF; author
"Here is what will happen as you read this book. You will learn more about how to love those who have lost someone, you will be loosened from your own calcifying grief, you will actually enjoy more of the love of God, you will notice hope growing, and you will cry—mostly all at the same time."
Ed Welch, PhD, CCEF Faculty; psychologist; best-selling author
"This is a painful, but hopeful book to read. For those of us privileged to have known Al and Libbie as a couple, this book is a poignant reminder of a lost friend. But it is more than that. It is also a powerful plea for the reader to take seriously the truth of the gospel and a trenchant reminder of how Jesus Christ stands with his people in even the darkest of times and will bring them ultimately through death to their eternal home."
Carl Trueman, Author; pastor; Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary
"The great privilege of this book is getting an inside look, a sneak peak at a real working faith. The juxtaposition of Al and Libbie's faith and the realities they are facing gives the book an unusual, vibrant feeling. This book is soul food at its finest."
Paul Miller, Director of seeJesus; author of A Loving Life and A Praying Life
"I will never forget Al Groves's huge memorial service. The congregation was singing a praise song from the book of Job: '[God] gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' Libbie's hand was stretched toward heaven, palm upward in worship, yielding Al to God. In this book, she yields him again. These pages are a godly woman's poignant offering to Jesus of her dearest earthly friend."
Steve Estes, Pastor; author of A Better December and When God Weeps
"Here is a down-to-earth account of death through cancer, but written as a journey with God. It is a heart-wrenching, honest, and moving account of the joys and regrets of caring for a husband dying of cancer. Written in such an engaging style, the author enables the reader both to resonate with her pain and to marvel at the grace and mercy of God that captivated her and her husband. I read. I wept. I gave thanks to God."
The Most Rev. Dr. Glenn N. Davies, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia
"'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' This promise of Christ is not only for the apostle Paul, as this volume so convincingly and winsomely evidences. Though written in a highly personal vein, it does not so much draw attention to the author as it does to Christ's sustaining and sanctifying sufficiency. Here is hope and encouragement for Christians undergoing similar circumstances. Grief Undone indeed."
Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
"Deepest joy and profoundest hope is often best seen through glistened eyes. This collection of brief but exceedingly poignant reflections on the death of one of the Lord's saints will have many readers thanking God with hearts weeping but overflowing because the subject is not ultimately Al's death or his family's journey through grief; it's about how the presence of Jesus bathes even the land of darkest sorrow in light."
Dan McCartney, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Redeemer Theological Seminary
"In Grief Undone, the reader is given the most honest and vivid picture of the walk through the valley of the shadow of death that I have ever read. There is the depth of both the valley and the darkness. But in these brief and engaging chapters there is also the constant presence of the Shepherd whose triumph over death gives the reader true comfort to believe that 'I need not fear for thou art with me.'
Dr. Tim Witmer, Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary; pastor
"This book offers a touching testament to the power of love over death, one that does more than merely chronicle the journey of J. Alan Groves's battle with cancer, but that beautifully articulates the broad range of feelings, moods, sentiments, and longings his family faced throughout its long, painful ordeal. Grief Undone tells a tale of one family's journey with cancer and how it sensed God's quiet, compassionate presence at every turn."
Rev. Dennis J. Billy, CSsR, John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
"In this book Libbie expresses concern that she's not very open about what goes on inside or that she loves people well. Don't believe her. In her straightforward and down-to-earth way, she brings dying to life. She reveals the raw and the real within her own heart. She invites us into intimate moments with Al and with Jesus. We come away wanting to be a part of this faithful, loving family, and realize that in Jesus, we are."
Jayne V. Clark, MAR, Chief of Staff, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation
"Al Groves was a mentor and friend to many people, and now his wife Libbie draws us into their private life with a mixture of intimacy, honesty, and practical theology. The result is simply inspiring. This whole book is 'vulnerably and excruciatingly beautiful,' to borrow one of her own phrases, so get ready to weep, laugh, think, and reflect along with her."
Charles Clayton, Director, Oxford Leaders Ltd; Chief Executive, Primary Care Trauma Foundation; Former Executive Director of World Vision International
"Libbie Groves invites us into her personal valley of death to help us see, hear, and feel how God comforts and strengthens his precious children. Instead of advising us how to avoid painful feelings, Libbie shows us how God walked her through the full range of human emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one in Christ. Our strong Savior disarms death, helps us face grief head-on with a sweet and certain hope of resurrection, and generously gives us himself in our deepest sorrow."
Barbara R. Duguid, Author of Extravagant Grace; biblical counselor; speaker
"Having followed and loved the blog Al and Libbie published during Al's illness, I wondered how any narrative could be as riveting. But in this book Libbie masterfully weaves the blog's inspiring messages into a story of love, courage, and humor. It is a model of how to walk the path of suffering while staying connected to God as the source of strength."
Amy Givler, MD, Author of Hope in the Face of Cancer: A Survival Guide for the Journey You Did Not Choose
"If you want to see the gospel in action, then retrace the steps of an ordinary family's bittersweet journey into the valley of the shadow of death. Bitter and tear-filled, for obvious reasons. Yet sweet and faith-filled, as they walk through the darkness, with eyes focused on the hope of resurrection and open to see the surprising ways God comforts them when facing the final enemy. Painful but profoundly encouraging!"
Douglas Green, PhD, Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary
"We struggle to give words to our experience of grief. In this book, Libbie has done a great service to all pilgrims who have laid another in the grave to await the resurrection from the dead. This is certainly a book to read slowly, prayerfully, and in conversation with others. It is deeply human and deeply heavenward at the same time. Read it and taste comingled grief and renewal. Just as the Psalms tell it and Al would have wanted it."
Michael Kelly, Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary
"Anyone facing this path of loss and uncertainty could benefit from the generous openness of a wise and loving friend whose confidence in the Lord's faithfulness and constant presence has been forged in similar circumstances. Here is such a friend."
Dr. Ruth Marshall, Biblical Counselling UK
"In this memoir by Libbie Groves about her husband's death and her life beyond, she provides the reader many simple reminders of God's presence in dark times. However, the meditations from Al may have been my greatest delight. His observations about Psalm 22 and 23 alone are worth the price of the book. But read on, and see how God continues to meet Libbie in grief, joy, and most of all, the hope of heaven."
Philip G. Monroe, PsyD, Professor of Psychology & Counseling, Biblical Seminary
"In Grief Undone, Libby recounts her husband Al's battle with cancer and her subsequent journey as a widow and single mother. The book is an honest, encouraging read that doesn't minimize the heartache and agonizing pain of losing a loved one even as it testifies to the sustaining goodness of God and the hope of glory that lies ahead for Christians."
Erika Moore, Professor of Old Testament Studies and Hebrew, Trinity School for Ministry
"Grief Undone is heart-breaking—bringing me to tears as I walked through the 89 accounts of God's faithfulness to my great professor-mentor-friend, his wife Libbie, and their family; heart-warming—exhilarating as I saw how God's people celebrate his goodness; and heart-probing—daring me to face grief head-on in a whole new way. Grief Undone is extraordinary!"
Michael Phua, Rev, PhD, Associate Professor, Singapore Bible College
"This book not only allows us to journey with Libbie, Al, and their kids through the valley of the shadow of death, it pointedly drives us to the hope of resurrection we have in Jesus Christ. It is this hope that our dear friend Al Groves cherished even in the face of death."
Dr. Hulisani Ramantswana, Senior Lecturer, University of South Africa, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies
"Grief Undone is an invitation to and an offer of a model by which we too can learn from the Lord enough to trust his loving heart and be able to stare any perturbing circumstance in the face courageously and see beyond it to the triumph of Calvary. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who lives in this fallen world with all its disappointments and tears."
Rev. Cephas T. A. Tushima, PD, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jos ECWA Theological Seminary