One November day in 2020, Tim and Aileen Challies learned the stunning news that their 20-year-old son, Nick, had suddenly died. He had not been ill. There were no known congenital health issues. He was playing a game with his sister and their friends at college when he suddenly collapsed. Efforts to revive him failed.
Though grief never goes completely away, it is probably at its most intense the first year. Like many of us who write, Tim processed what he was thinking and feeling by writing. Some of what he wrote was published on his blog. But much was not. He gathered his writings from the year into a book titled Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God. The book is laid out across seasons, beginning with fall, when Nick died, through winter, spring, summer, and then fall again on the first anniversary of Nick’s passing.
Nick was a young man training for gospel ministry. This is not the first time I have wondered why would God take someone with so much potential to heaven instead of allowing them to do His work here. We don’t know all the answers. But we do know our times are in His hands. Anyone’s death, but especially that of one so young, reminds us that we’re not guaranteed a certain number of years. By all accounts, Nick used his time here well. May God give us grace to do with same, with a heart fixed on eternity.
Even though the book deals with the recent loss of an adult child, much of it can be applied to any loss. I found help and comfort in dealing with the seventeen year loss of my mom, who died seemingly (to us) too early at 68.
One of the things I appreciated most about Tim’s testimony was his desire to honor God in the midst of his grief. There is nothing wrong with grief and tears. Jesus wept with his friends at the loss of Lazarus, even while knowing He was about to raise him from the dead. We don’t go off on a season of grieving and then come back to faith in and peace with God. Tim demonstrates that we can trust Him through and in the midst of grief.
Tim wrestles honestly with what he knows of the goodness of God in circumstances that don’t seem good.
One aftermath of loss is fearing more loss.
I, whose son collapsed and died, cannot fall asleep in the evening until I have received assurance that both my daughters are still alive and cannot be content in the morning until I am sure both have made it through the night. Nick’s death has made us face mortality and human fragility in a whole new way. My children may as well be made of glass. I’m just so afraid that if Providence directed I lose one, it may direct that I lose another. If it has determined I face this sorrow, why not many more?
How, then, can I let go of such anxiety? How can I continue to live my life? The only antidote I know is this: deliberately submitting myself to the will of God, for comfort is closely related to submission. As long as I fight the will of God, as long as I battle God’s right to rule his world in his way, peace remains distant and furtive. But when I surrender, when I bow the knee, then peace flows like a river and attends my way. For when I do so, I remind myself that the will of God is inseparable from the character of God. I remind myself that the will of God is always good because God is always good. Hence I pray a prayer of faith, not fatalism: “Your will be done. Not as I will, but as you will” (p. 76).
Another section that particularly spoke to me was when Tim found his longings for heaven mixed up with seeing Nick again as much, and sometimes more, than seeing Jesus. He confessed this to a friend, ending with the thought that he must sound like a pagan. The friend replied, “No, you sound like a grieving father” (p. 122).
And I’m content to leave it there. It was God who called me to himself and God who put a great love for himself in my heart. It was God who gave me my son, God who gave me such love for him, and God who took him away from me. The Lord knows I love the Lord, and the Lord knows I love my boy. I’ll leave it to him to sort out the details (p. 122).
Ecclesiastes 7:2 tells us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” God doesn’t condemn feasting and gladness: He incorporated such into Israel’s calendar year and tells us the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). But we do tend to learn deeper lessons through mourning. I appreciate Tim’s sharing what he experienced and learned with us.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)
Oooh this sounds like such a moving, meaty read! I really liked the parts you pulled out, about comfort being intertwined with submission, and about his guilt? over feeling like he wanted to see his son again more than he wanted to see Jesus. So relatable. If I feel like I’m emotionally up to it, I’ll have to seek this one out.
There was much in this book that was relatable. Emotionally, I had to take it in short bits, so it took me a little longer to read than I had expected.
This sounds very good. I’m going to make a note of it.
A thoughtful review, thanks for sharing
Thank you so much for the kind review.
You’re very welcome. Thanks for sharing your heart.
I know that loss Barb & I know the anxiety from PTSD afterwards. Having lost my daughter Candy then twelve months later my only son Benjamin, then later my husband to brain cancer.
A hypervigilence can set itself up within, in what may be going to hit us from left field next…it takes a lot of vigilence in purposely sitting in God’s presence to overcome that feeling!
Thankyou for sharing this book with us.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Jennifer. Wow, that’s a lot of loss, especially to lose your children so close together. I felt that vigilance to a degree after having an illness in which I couldn’t walk for a time. We know anything can happen any time, and when something did, I was afraid more was coming. It takes a lot of God’s grace to trust Him no matter what He brings our way and not to worry about what might happen.
That it does Barbara.
Barbara, I haven’t read Seasons of Sorry yet but it’s definitely on my list. I appreciate the passages you highlighted here … there are so many facets of grief that have the potential to heap guilt upon our already sorrowful hearts, aren’t there?
Seasons of Sorrow, I mean.
There are. I hope I didn’t highlight that aspect too much–there’s so much he covers here that was so helpful.
Great review! This sounds like a devastating book.
It was heart-wrenching but also hopeful.
This sounds like such a profound and poignant book. Thank you for sharing your review. We never like to think about loss–but we know it can happen at any moment.
Oh, my–the pain reaches through the pages and squeezes my heart. I’m currently writing an article on grief and this book sounds like such a wonderful, honest resource. Thank you for sharing.
P.S. I am truly sorry your mother passed at such a young age. That must be so hard.
This sounds like such a good read, though heart-wrenching I’m sure. Thank you for sharing about it – it’s one I’ll look for. Visiting today from IMM#28
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