Some books are hard to read. Some books are hard to read because the subject matter is challenging on a sympathetic level; you feel the pain the author describes, you understand intellectually what he/she is trying to communicate. Some books are hard to read because the subject matter is close to heart on an empathetic level; you have been there, you know the pain and the suffering, you have walked the same path.
Resurrection Year is a book about suffering, death and resurrection. In it Sheridan Voysey shares his and his wife’s journey through seeking a child via natural means, IVF and then finally adoption with each door pushed at staying firmly shut. The Resurrection Year of the title is surprisingly not the 12 month period in which all their dreams came true but rather the year in which they finally became reconciled to the death of their plans and desires and watched God raise up something else in its stead.
Voysey weaves diary entries, chronological narratives and flashbacks to tell the painful story of how his dreams of raising a family were slowly dashed. There are the struggles with failed and abortive IVF cycles, the wrestling with God over what his “good” purposes were in their failure to conceive or adopt, and the slow transit to seeing what God would raise up in the place of the plans that have died. While there is some engagement with theologies of theodicy, this is ultimately a personal narrative, Voysey and his wife sharing with us their journey, their grief and sorrow and their joy and future hope.
A Force of Will tells the story of Mike and Stacy Stavlund in the first year after their son Will died aged just 4 months. It is a tale of pain and mourning, of how the life and death of a child affects a family and their friends. Like Resurrection Year, Stavlund’s book is a blend of narrative, reminiscence and theology. There is a slightly deeper engagement with academic theodicy then Voysey’s offering, but it is still accessible and practical. Like Resurrection Year, A Force of Will does not provide a happy ending but rather a recognition that grief and sorrow handed into the care of God is a transformative experience. These are books to read alongside Job in the Old Testament, raising questions that are not answered and stirring emotions that are not easily turned back to peace.
I admit freely that I wept reading both of these books. Stavlund’s narrative of losing his son stirred in me grief from our own loss. Voysey’s offering raised in me a deep cry for my own resurrection four years on from when mine and Gayle’s life changed forever. Neither of these books provide easy comfort but rather an acknowledgement that mourning is a slow and unprescriptive process and a challenge that God’s purposes are his own and that sometimes we will simply never know why we suffer. Both books are ultimately about life, warts and all, an opportunity to share the pain of others and to engage with our own deaths and lack of movement in the areas we desire so much.
Neither of these books is safe but both of them are profoundly powerful.
Do Buy if… you face your own broken dreams and unfulfilled desires
Don’t Buy if… you expect every story to have a happy ending
8 out of 10
A Force of Will
Do Buy if… you want an honest warts and all description of what it is like to lose a child
Don’t Buy if… you don’t want to cry in public reading a book
9 out of 10
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This song sums up for me a lot of what I and others feel like having been through this stuff personally.