Steve and Sharol Hayner
Joy in the Journey: Finding Abundance in the Shadow of Death
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.
Available at Amazon.com
By Felicity Clift
I remember a lecturer asking my class of students to raise our hands if we knew someone who had been diagnosed with cancer. The question was close to home. A friend of mine – a young, fit man – had been diagnosed with an aggressive lymphatic cancer and was undergoing treatment at the time. He was one of a large group of mutual friends and the shock and pain of his diagnosis touched many. It was a gracious gift, then, when his family started blogging about their family’s journey in order to keep their community around the world up to date. Joy in the Journey: Finding Abundance in the Shadow of Death (InterVarsity Press: 2015) is such another gracious gift. In the same way, this book holds a compilation of blog posts that Steve and Sharol Hayner wrote while Steve underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer.
This book is a powerful and personal tribute to the life of Steve and Sharol Hayner, but it is also a revealing insight into life with chronic illness and the personal nature of these blogs validates the wisdom offered within. Throughout his treatment both Steve and Sharol write about the great hope and joy that they are experiencing. With great honesty Sharol shares her questions about what she should hope for: ‘Complete healing? A long life? A few more months or years?’ yet her knowledge of the Scriptures leads her to believe that ‘God is the one secure place for [her] hope because it’s not dependent on [her] changing circumstances… How very freeing’ she writes (p.40). This book offers a rich theology on suffering and joy and walking with Christ. If you have ever questioned whether your prayers for healing are effective, or felt disappointment in the face of unanswered prayers Steve offers his insight on this (p.61). If you have mourned the apparent ‘waste of life’ that accompanies illness Steve speaks to this too (p.64). Within this book there are offerings on our unmet expectations and our power to respond (p. 75-77), on having joy while struggling with depression (p.79-81), on what eternal life is (p. 86), on the importance of identity and of discipline (p.89 & 91), and of mundane discipleship preparing us for more tumultuous times (p.93). Throughout their writings Steve and Sharol Hayner testify to the joy that may be found in life with Christ even through times of illness – a joy grown through gratitude to God and through life within the church community. Most evident of all, however, is Sharol and Steve’s willingness to trust God’s plan from day to day, in the face of their trials.
This little book is a rich resource for those who profess faith in Christ and who are questioning how to live faithfully while suffering, or how to support others through their chronic illness. It is not without its challenges though. Gratitude is the key. ‘Even in the worst of times there is something for which to be thankful’, in short, it is the joy of our life eternal that we have begun in Christ (p.126). The very real challenge presented by Steve and Sharol is, will we choose joy?
Flyck Clift studies theology at Ridley College in Melbourne alongside working as a nurse in her local hospital. She is currently involved in leading a home group at church and enjoys encouraging people in integrating their belief in God with their daily living.