Angela Williams Gorrell was hired by Yale University to work on the Theology of Joy and the God Life project. Shortly thereafter, she experienced three traumatic deaths of people close to her: her cousin’s husband committed suicide; her young adult nephew died suddenly due to a cardiac arrest; her father died after years of opioid addiction. Research and teaching about joy became difficult. This was certainly an opportunity to grow through challenging circumstances!
Through volunteering to lead Bible studies in a women’s prison, Angela begins to see that joy and sorrow, grief and rejoicing can coexist. Working with these women who are imprisoned, who often have suicidal thoughts, who struggle with addiction, she still notices their moments of real joy.
“Because joy is God, because it is what you feel while being ministered to, it can always find you.”
It is possible to be in the midst of grief, and at the same time experience the joy of looking forward in hope. Joy seemed to flow from loving relationships, and despair from loneliness and isolation.
“Joy is a counteragent to despair because it can be sustained and sustain us, even when standing right next to suffering.”
She compares times of mourning to the Saturday before Easter. It is a time of in between.
“The majority of the time in our lives is spent living on Saturday, in the space between death on Friday and the indescribably joy of Sunday morning.”
This memoir-like book will appeal to anyone dealing with the challenges of grief, especially grief related to a tragic or unexpected death. It is an open and honest exploration of one person’s journey out of deep sorrow. At the end there is an epilogue that includes resources for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, or addiction. There is also some current information about work that is being done to educate people about these issues and prevent untimely deaths.
The author ends by saying:
“I hope you will join in the important work of reducing suicide, healing addiction, and changing the prison system. I hope you will create and nurture a community that focuses on understanding, recalling, and being open to joy.”
VERDICT: 5 STARS. I read it in one day.
For more on the topic of grief see:
The Night Lake by Liz Tichenor–Book Review