Whatever one’s worldview, whether Christian or otherwise, the problem of evil is a reality every individual must face. Sometimes, Christians can be so eager to assure each other and themselves of their hope in Christ, that they forget to express the human sympathy for the grief of loss that Jesus himself showed when he wept before he rose Lazarus from the dead.
Gems of Hope: Poems and Devotionals for those who have Suffered Loss strikes a biblical balance in the comfort it offers for grieving Christians. Rather than ignoring or dismissing the suffering with easy platitudes, Gems of Hope acknowledges through Camarie’s personal story the tragedies which people face and the comfort which the Gospel yields in the midst of those tragedies.
The style of Gems of Hope is unique in a modern context: poetry on the left-hand page is accompanied by devotionals with Scripture verses on the right-hand page. This combination of two genres is mirrored as well in the larger plan of the anthology as a whole, with the first half offering general comfort for Christians regardless of their particular circumstances, and the second offering insight into the particular circumstances which led Camarie to seek comfort by writing poetry and devotionals in response to her heartbreaking trials.
The poems are elegant and vivid, reminiscent of the Psalms and the poetry of George Herbert and the imagination of John Bunyan. The prose of the devotionals is written in a straightforward and earnest manner, delivering their prayerful reflections in a fashion that remind me of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Camarie’s vocabulary is rich and expressive in both genres, and share God’s eternal truths from Scripture with a fresh and sincere faith.
The combination of prose and poetry in a single text is, although perhaps unusual to us now, a common ancient genre called the prosimetrum, and in fact one we see in Scripture. The Bible as a whole is prosimetric, mirroring the commands of God in prose with the corresponding beauty to which those commands point: “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy” in the Ten Commandments is mirrored by “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” in Psalm 118. But many books of the Bible have a prosimetric style: First Samuel has the Song of Hannah in chapter 2, Deuteronomy has the Song of Moses in chapter 32, and the Book of Hebrews is periodically prosimetric in its reference to the Psalms. Camarie’s Gems of Hope brings this Scriptural pattern to life in her own writing. For example, Camarie’s poem “Your Light” reads, “Lord, fill my pathway with your light; Make it to shine unto the perfect day. Until Your Victory ends the fight, Illumine every step with a guiding ray.” She admits in the corresponding devotional, based on 1 John 1:5, Psalm 89:15 and Proverbs 4:18, that “we cannot make sense of our circumstances and may feel skeptical about what God might be doing in our lives because we are relying on our own vision,” but if we know “that God is light and has called us to walk in His Light,” we can find peace which passes understanding.
Through prayer and poetry, Camarie has let her gifts be used by God to turn her wounds into scars, as she contemplates in her poem “Every Scar.” She closes the accompanying devotional with the profound thought that when “we see our scars in light of God’s purpose, we can embrace those scars rather than resent them.” If you are hoping to turn your wounds into scars and your scars into a reminder that God is, as Camarie puts it in her poem, “the Lord of your past,” whatever you are going through, I hope you will get a copy of Gems of Hope and take comfort in her words.
I should note, by the way, that I had no idea that Camarie would be my wife when I met her as Camarie Colbert in 2017 and read her book which she gave to me on our second date. It seemed like a very strange coincidence that I, a Boethius scholar who studied Boethius’s influence through his book called The Consolation of Philosophy (a devotional narrative interspersed with poetry) on the prosimetric tradition of consolatory Christian writing, would meet a Christian who had written a prosimetric consolation in the form of poetry and devotions. Camarie wrote a poem in this collection entitled “I see it now,” in her words, “to express my joy in being able to recognize some of God’s providential workings that I was unable to see beforehand.” No kidding.
If you’re interested, you can get a copy off of Amazon or the Barnes and Noble website below: