Eight Twenty-Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up (Book Review)

By. Lindsey Carlson

Ian and Larissa Murphy. Eight Twenty-Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2014. 208 pp.

In 2012, Ian and Larissa Murphy’s story of heartache, love, and loyalty went viral. With the help of John Piper and Desiring God, more than 10 million people have viewed the eight-minute video of the young couple who married after Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury following a car accident. Stunned by Larissa’s selfless devotion to Ian, the world wanted to know more. How could she stay by his side? How could a marriage this complicated possibly work? Why would a young bride enter a marriage this difficult from the beginning?

Yesterday, on August 28, 2014, Ian and Larissa celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary with the release of their new book, Eight Twenty-Eight: When Love Didnt Give Up.

Through old love notes, journal entries, and blog posts, the book weaves together the 10 months of Ian and Larissa’s courtship leading up to the car accident, the long months Ian lived in a hospital or in a comatose state, and their married lives together. Seeing their relationship unfold in more than eight minutes gives readers the chance to contemplate and grasp the couple’s admiration and devotion to one another, both before and after tragedy. Larissa’s stories and memories bring pre-injured Ian back to life, introducing and engaging readers with a man who still exists beneath the layers of brain damage. As time passes and he begins to slowly recover, we rejoice alongside Larissa as the same gentle, humorous, and quick-witted Ian begins to re-emerge. Though their story is loaded with adversity, it is also packed full of joy and hope.

Can We Relate?

Certainly, watching Ian’s slow healing unfold is miraculous. But equally miraculous is watching the transformation of Larissa’s heart in the process. Larissa is an ordinary girl with the same fears and doubts most of us can relate to. All of the questions running through your mind as you watched the video have most likely run through hers. She has wept bitter tears of loss, she has been angry with the way life has unfolded, but she has fought through each emotion for her joy to remain in Christ.

Whether it’s a car accident, brain injury, divorce, miscarriage, infidelity, or illness, we all endure trials. At some point the rubber meets the road in our faith journey, and we must quickly learn where our hope and help comes from. Like Larissa, we may face questions we don’t know how to answer. In these times we must learn to walk by faith, trusting in God’s goodness to carry, sustain, and sanctify us through whatever choice we make.

Maybe we haven’t sat at the bedside of a loved one in a coma for months on end or been forced, like Larissa, to choose between staying or walking away from a relationship. But we can still relate. We must be careful not to limit the effect of Ian and Larissa’s story to “brain injury” sized trials, for the questions they ask and the wisdom they offer apply to trials of every shape and size.

The Murphys’ story teaches us to ask these bigger questions in pain and suffering: Is God good when life turns out differently than I’d hoped? Is he able to sustain me in ways that seem unrealistic? Can I cling to hope in even the bleakest situations? Can I trust a God who would let me experience such heartache? And in the pain of waiting for God’s provision, their lives teach us the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”

What Can We Point To?

When the Murphys’ video went viral, both the church world and the secular world had questions about Larissa’s choice to marry a man with a severe brain injury. The world wanted something to point to, something to make sense of a situation they couldn’t understand. This book shines because it isn’t formulaic or instructive, but simply offers a testimony to God’s goodness. All the glory points toward him and his enabling power, not to Larissa or her loyalty.

I appreciate the fact this book doesn’t set out to make a case for Larissa’s choice to stay. It isn’t trying to prove anything other than God’s faithfulness. We should not conclude from their story that making the hardest decision possible in trials necessarily results in greater holiness or increased portions of God’s favor. The lesson here is that God is faithful to sustain those he loves and has called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

I think the heart of this book is best summed up by the words of Ian’s father, Steve, who passed away a year before Ian and Larissa married. He wrote on their blog chronicling Ian’s recovery:

Larissa’s devotion directs my attention to the Savior. It is a glimpse of Christ. If in saying this I’ve caused your mind to dwell on her devotion, I’ve messed up. If in any of our posts we have directed attention to ourselves, we have messed up. When we see Larissa and Ian together, we should not be amazed by her devotion and love. Instead we should be pointed to Christ, amazed by his love for us, and the miracle it is that we can reflect even a portion of that. (June 25, 2008)

After reading Eight Twenty-Eight, I’ve been pondering my own devotions. What is my life drawing attention to? Is it to me and my own trials, or is it to my matchless Savior Jesus Christ?

The same power enabling Ian and Larissa empowers you. Their story is our story. All of our brokenness and sin and the pain and suffering of this world will be redeemed through the faithfulness of our merciful Savior. Like Larissa, we can choose to rejoice in the midst of suffering.Eight Twenty-Eight is a precious lesson in how to hold on to hope and point to Christ in the process. I wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone wrestling through trial or learning to glorify God in the process.