This small and easy to read autobiography of Dirk van Zuylan is an eye-opener for those caring for patients with long term illnesses, and more specifically those who have renal failure.
The book follows his life through his childhood of moving to Canada and then back to Holland. It is there that he becomes a Christian and starts his work in the Navigators, an organisation that reaches and disciples students for Christ. His work brings him to England where he falls in love with Sandra and they marry and have children.
Early in their marriage, Dirk discovers that he has renal failure. He goes onto dialysis but eventually requires two kidney transplants. Later, he is diagnosed as having cancer. Dirk talks frankly about the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles of being ill, and the effect these have on those who love him. He doesn't duck the enormous questions that arise but rather walks us through them from his perspective in a honest and frank manner. In the last chapter he asks the question, 'How does God feel about all the suffering in the world?'. He concludes that the only way of finding out is to look to Jesus, for in Jesus we see compassion and love demonstrated to the point of dying for us so that we can be restored to God.
By the end of the book, Dirk is enjoying better health but is honest about the scars. He has become a different man; he is more sensitive and feels others pain more deeply. In one of his concluding paragraphs, he talks of his confusion about God's delay in answering his prayers, but balances this with the truth that God is always his anchor in the storm.
This book does not offer a deep understanding of the theology of suffering but rather describes the personal experiences of a man who, after suffering for many years, it is continuing to work out the huge questions that arise such as God's sovereignty and his own self-worth. If I have any concern, it is his lack of emphasis on God's sovereignty.
This book can help people in different ways: firstly, it gives insight into the difficulties of living with a chronic disease such as renal failure; secondly, it challenges the Christian to think about suffering in this context; and thirdly, it introduces the non-Christian to Christian truths in a way that is unthreatening and easy to understand.
Oncology nurse and past UCCF staffworker to student nurses