Luminous Dark

Pages: 224
ISBN: 978-1-910012-45-1
Publication Date: 31/10/2017

Price: £12.99

God doesn’t give us answers. In the silence he gives us himself - bigger than our pain, beyond our explanations, closer than our breath.
Alain Emerson

When you follow God in wholehearted obedience, and suddenly your entire world falls apart; when your deepest, most urgent prayers are met with silence – can faith survive?

Alain Emerson felt like the luckiest man in the world. The talented pastor of a thriving church and national director of a prayer movement, he had found and married Lindsay, his soulmate. He could never have imagined that in a matter of months he would be nursing his twenty-three-year-old wife through the final stages of cancer, and would find himself as a young widower, distraught and alone.

In Luminous Dark Alain retraces his journey through the stages of grief, pain and shock, choosing to lean into the pain and to face God with his disappointment in the dark tunnel of despair. It is here that Alain wrestles with God and with his grief.

And it is from that he emerges with a sense of having seen God’s face – the one who knows our pain, who walks beside us, suffers and weeps with us, and who ultimately restores our joy.

Watch Alain talk about why he wrote the book

What People are Saying

“Most of us will at some point experience the death of a loved one or another cataclysmic loss in our lives—it’s a universal experience we are usually unprepared for.  Luminous Dark is a book to read before that happens, written by a young pastor who watched his 23-year-old wife die of a fast-growing cancer.  He waited ten years to write the book, during which time he became aware that ‘people do not know how to grieve, as no one had taught them how to wrestle with pain, how to stare darkness in the eye, how to discover permission to laugh again’.

Alain Emerson has written a beautiful and instructive memoir on his journey through grief.  It’s instructive because he tells his story very honestly with great vulnerability.  He doesn’t quote platitudes like ‘lean into the pain’ without telling you exactly what that looked like for him.  He tells of the early days of trying not to let grief destroy him, finding a way to lament and protest through the Psalms.  He opens his journal from those days, full of raw emotion.  He tells the entire story of his journey through that dark night of the soul, that luminous dark, that led to new life and a much deeper faith.

Luminous Dark is filled with sound theology, the theology of the cross—death, burial, resurrection.  It is filled with the wisdom of the ancients as well as modern-day prophets and mystics.  It is a book filled with hope, one I will be recommending again and again, and will return to myself.  I’ve not read a better book on this topic since C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.”
Peri Zahnd, Word of Life Church Co-Pastor and Author 

“Jacob’s name was changed to Israel only after he wrestled with God. The implications of that for the people of God are astounding: namely, our identity is solidified only in the aftermath of the divine-human fight. Alain Emerson has a unique authority to lead us in this conversation because he’s lived a life of faithful contention with God. Luminous Dark is a treasure because it will teach us to do the same. Pick it up and enter the fathomless depths.”
Daniel Grothe, Pastor, New Life Church Colorado

“A powerful book, not only brave and raw, but much needed in our charismatic world. It must have been a costly book to write.”
Dr Lucy Peppiatt, Principal, Westminster Theological Centre

“This book is a brilliant, personal and ultimately hopeful journey through grief and beyond. I love how Alain weaves a moving personal story with powerful biblical insights, prayerful reflections and a pastor’s heart. While dealing with death, it is also about the loss, disappointment and suffering we all experience. Alain wrestles with the mystery of woundedness and the painful journey of being transformed by the love of God through suffering. If you don’t want grief to define you forever, read this book.”
Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

Luminous Dark is, quite simply, one of the most powerful books I have ever read.  I couldn’t leave it down. Alain is a godly man, fully of integrity, warmth and depth. It is not surprising that what he has written simply oozes those qualities.
This is a book to be read by all who have experienced suffering and grief – and all who will do so in the future. It brings together the experience of a young man who faces the sudden death of his 23-year-old wife; it is illustrated by his poetic and honest journaling; and it is deeply rooted in theology and modern culture.
If you are like me, you will probably weep your way through it. Whatever else, don’t miss it! A beautifully written Christian book which should become a classic.”
The Rt Revd Harold C Miller, Church of Ireland Bishop of the Diocese of Down & Dromore

Luminous Dark is an exceptional, inspiring, deeply courageous, and moving book. It is a mediation and spiritual  response to the question “what will you do with your pain?” In his book Alain encourages us to embrace the pain of loss and offers one of the most sensitive and comprehensive books on the theology of grief  in our time.”
Andrea Wigglesworth, M.Sc. Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Life Coach

“I had the painful privilege of walking with Alain through the valley of the shadow of death. It was hard watching him stare down his grief and vulnerably wrestle with God. As I read Luminous Dark I am thankful that he has told us what he saw down that tough dark road. This is a theologically thoughtful and pastorally powerful resource for us all. As Ohio band Over The Rhine sing… ‘it is a beautiful piece of heartache.'”
Steve Stockman, Author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2

“Death, especially the death of a loved one, raises hard questions that touch on the very meaning of life. Alain faces these questions with honesty and realism. He not only describes the pain that lies in death’s shadow but also how he encountered the Lord as his shepherd in helping him navigate the consequences of the loss of his beloved wife, Lindsay. Alain’s book will help restore faith and confidence in God and bring light into dark places. I thoroughly recommend it.”
John Lennox, Christian Apologist, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

“Through opening up his story, Alain opens up how we see God himself. There is no gloss painted over pain but there is a beautiful melody building throughout. A painfully raw read at times, yet full of honest hope. Having now read it once I want to go back and read it again slowly, because this is a story that shines so much light on God; I need to listen again.”
Helen Warnock, Director of Belfast Bible College

“This raw and unflinching book urges those who love God, but who feel only confused betrayal in the face of loss, to press on into the Father’s heart of love.
As we share with Alain the transformative experience of bereavement, he takes us on a journey through a valley of silent darkness to reach a place of unexpected revelation and paradoxical joy.
This book can also help our churches to discover a new and much-needed insight into grief and loss. It offers an interpretation and a vocabulary to reach those who are hurting, and promises the potential of God’s rich and generous blessing on those who have been bereaved.”
Jane Oundjian, Founder of ‘The Bereavement Journey’ course, Holy Trinity, Brompton



Exceptional book. When someone loses a loved one it is so hard to know what to say, or what to do. This explains why so many people take the easy option and stay away for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. I purchased the book as my brother-in-law had received a terminal prognosis. I didn’t manage to the end of the first chapter with dry eyes. It was three weeks before I could pick it up again; not the author’s faulty; it was too close to home for me.

Alain’s wife died at age 23 after 20 months of marriage. That is tough. This book is the story of his journey with nothing held back, which is what you want if you want to know what it is like for someone going through such an ordeal. He is brutally honest and vulnerable in his writing. So many emotions and thoughts that my sister was experiencing (and me to a lesser degree) were put into words so eloquently by Alain. He describes how some people tried to “fix” him, or get him to the end of the dark tunnel sooner than he needed to be. I can identify with that as no one likes to see another person experiencing deep grief and loss. He uses the account of Jacob wrestling with God to describe his own wrestling with God.

I can truly say this is perhaps the best book I have ever read. Other writers have written interesting books which have certainly held my attention, but this one touched my soul and will definitely be a re-read. I have bought additional copies to give away. Read it. You will not regret it.
This book would be so useful for pastors, elders, deacons, anyone in fact who want to show up when someone has experienced a bereavement but doesn’t really know what to do or say.
skiwiman, via Amazon

There are lots of books about grief. This one is different for three reasons.
Firstly, it is not written reflectively, looking back to the dark season. Alain Emerson permits his readers to step into the experience with him, in real time.
Secondly, it is not primarily about finding a way out of the pain. It is about staring loss in the eye, “leaning into the pain” as he describes it, with a determination to find hope somewhere within it.
Thirdly, the focus on his faith is not as you might anticipate. While it was an anchor for him, as it is for others in mourning, he is brutally honest about how it added to his anguish. His simple yet profound thesis of what it means to have your faith both deconstructed and reconstructed by grief can only be described as ground-breaking.
Above all, by sharing his story with courage, Alain grants others who walk through “the valley of the shadow” permission to linger there without fear, in the hope that the darkness just might be the place where they discover the light. Either because that is your experience now or will be in the future, this book is a must-read.
David Blevins, via Amazon

This is an amazingly honest, raw account of a desperately painful, yet beautiful journey. Alain tells his story of grief in such a way that hope is evident in the midst of the awful loss and the love and embrace of Abba Father, Daddy God, is written across each page. Highly recommended.
Ruth, via Amazon

What I love about this book is that it defies being squeezed into one particular genre. As Alain describes in detail his journey of grief and the ongoing healing process he moves through autobiography, personal journal entries and theological reflection. There’s no glib half-answers here nor the usual ‘Christianese’ that is so often found on the lips of well meaning friends during difficult times. Instead there’s an honest and raw account of one man wrestling with God (or his prior conception of God) during his darkest days and coming out the other side with something that is truly redemptive. I really appreciate how Alain was not afraid to draw help from various streams of the Christian tradition, from Walter Brueggeman to Richard Rohr with a sprinkling of C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard along the way. One to buy and pass along.
G. Mitchell, via Amazon

This book is a beacon of hope for us all.
Due to the rawness and honesty in Alain’s journey through grief and disappointment, this book is incredibly moving and powerfully insightful. It gives you the language to communicate brokenness and the inspiration to journey through it; one step at at time.
I would encourage you to have several copies, as you will want to continually give this book away to those you meet…
Diana S, via Amazon

I’ve never cried reading a book before, until now! Luminous Dark will take you to the darkest depths of despair in the tumbling waves of Alain Emerson’s grief to the light that he found in that place and his journey through it. For anyone currently in that place I highly recommend this book. And for the rest of us, its a book worth having for when those waves visit us. You need this book in your home!!!
Stephen McIntyre, via Amazon

Alain writes with such a raw honesty, that it draws you into his story and you find yourself walking through it with him.I would recommend this to anyone, especially those going through times of grief, I found it finally put words to my feelings that I had be searching for.
David C, via Amazon

Alain uses the power of his personal story of grief, loss and disappointment with God. He encourages readers to keep the faith, as there is ultimately hope and peace for all who trust in their risen Lord – Jesus, the light of world!
PJ Bradley MTh, via Amazon

I loved this book. I am so grateful Alain has allowed us in on his journey. He shares with such honesty which immediately engages the reader.
It is theologically rich and pastorally sensitive. I can’t think of anyone that this wouldn’t be helpful for! Get it now!!
Amazon customer, via Amazon

About the Author

Alain Emerson is Irish National Director of 24-7 Prayer and one of the lead Pastors at Emmanuel Church, a thriving young church in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. Alain has a passion to see God do a ‘new thing’ in Ireland. He is a former Irish league footballer who now enjoys watching sport rather than playing it, especially the mighty Liverpool! He enjoys hanging out with friends, reading and helping his wife run a dental practice.

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