While working part-time at Bradley’s Bible Book Store in Pensacola, Florida, while in junior college (1965-67), I became exposed to Vance Havner, a popular author among many of our Southern Baptist customers. At the time, I knew almost nothing of Havner and probably wouldn’t have appreciated him even if I did. Havner was considered by Baptists in the South as one of the great revivalists of the twentieth century. He was also known for his colorful style of preaching and writing. Born in Jugtown, North Carolina, he began writing sermons for the local newspaper at age nine, was licensed to preach at twelve, and was ordained as a minister at fifteen. A preacher for more than seventy years, he was the author of over thirty books.
Now for the context of the book: Havner was married for 32 years, from age 40 to 72, to Sarah, a woman he dearly loved who was of Quaker heritage. In this book of 50 short devotionals, Havner writes from his heart, as well as from his years of preaching God’s Word. The musings were composed during Sarah’s last weeks on earth and the first weeks after her home-going. Undoubtedly the author wrote partially as catharsis, a means to cope during this incredibly difficult period of his life. His feelings are so real and transparent, but his faith is so deep and abiding. I recommend this simple but deeply biblical book to any believer whose partner is dying or has died. The devotional readings are on a variety of subjects related to life, death, and dying.
One short paragraph will give you a flavor of this little work:
“The Savior had compassion on the multitude. Sympathy is about the same word (as compassion) with Greek origin instead of Latin. But neither means just feeling sorry for somebody. They mean entering into their troubles, being able to share with them because you have been there. You are not handing out worn clichés from reading and observation. People sense it when you speak from the heart. The simplest testimony may say what a profound sermon might never get across.”