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A Force of Will: The Reshaping of Faith in a Year of Grief Paperback – March 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (March 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801015111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801015113
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

There is hope--even when there is no happy ending

When Mike Stavlund's four-month-old son suddenly died, a flood of cards, flowers, meals, phone calls, and gifts let his family know that they were loved and cared for. Less welcome were the books, in particular the religious books. Often impossibly upbeat, saccharine sweet, and with all kinds of confident promises, they were too painful to read and too offensive to bear.

Instead Mike wrote this book, one week at a time during that first terrible year. A Force of Will explores the stark reality of loss, the alienation from all of life, the feeling of suffocation at the hands of the well-meaning people gathered around, and the sense of being abandoned by God.

If you're experiencing difficulty, this heartfelt book will help you to confront with honesty what you are going through without making you feel guilty.

"This book is about life in all its splendor and in all its agony. Mike talks about pain without trying to theologize it away and reminds us that it's okay for us to feel darkness--for even in our darkest moments we are not alone."--Shane Claiborne, author, activist (thesimpleway.org)

"A gripping, unflinchingly honest, beautifully written model of how to live with grief in faith."--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University

"Stavlund's unguarded account is one that you will neither put down unfinished nor soon forget."--Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department at Publishers Weekly

"Stavlund speaks the unspeakable in a beautiful, eloquent, and moving narrative that is both deeply personal and theologically resonant."--John D. Caputo, The Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus, Syracuse University

Mike Stavlund leads Common Table church in the Washington, DC metro area. He is a speaker, an adjunct faculty member at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and a regular writer for Emergent Village at Patheos.com and at TheHardestQuestion.org.

About the Author

Mike Stavlund (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) leads Common Table church in the Washington, DC Metro area, which has been featured in such publications as US News and World Report, The Washington Post, and Voice of America. An adjunct faculty member at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, Stavlund is a regular writer for Emergent Village at Patheos.com and at TheHardestQuestion.org, and is a frequent speaker at Christian conferences. His writing has been influenced by his family's experience of infertility, threatened pregnancy, infant cardiac surgery and critical care, grueling round-the-clock home care, and the sudden and shocking death of his son.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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"A Force Of Will" is brutal and painful and a wild emotional ride.
VicG
And if you're trying to find a written and tangible companion for a friend who feels alone in grief, this is absolutely the book you should give them.
dgs
Mike Stavlund is a beautiful writer whose words are poetic and posses a depth that brings you right into his heart.
The IEMommy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leigh F. on April 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
If you've lost your parents, you're an orphan. If you've lost your husband you're a widow, or oppositely, a widower. Strangely, there is no term for someone who has lost a child. Why is that? Perhaps it's because there is no term big or deep or wide enough to rap itself around such grief. If you've lost a child, we simply have no words for you. Your loss has no definitive term and yet in many ways it does define you. Mike Stavlund's, A Force of Will, is a deeply personal memoir about his year of grief after the premature death of his son. The brilliance of Mike's book is that he somehow finds the words to express, what at times, appears inexpressible. His intense introspection and devastating honesty will no doubt breed solidarity among those of us who have lost someone we love, or struggled with faith amidst hardship. Loss, being an inescapable part of the human experience, goes largely unexplored within most of our faith communities. Thankfully, A Force of Will is a refreshing meditation on the messy-unresolved-nature of suffering, for a post-resurrection people. Read this book and experience the redemption that comes with unearned suffering.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dgs on March 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
If you've ever wanted a book on grief that's honest and real and not theologically suspect with triumphal claims of joy that seem premature and forced, rest assured: this is it. Mike Stavlund is a gifted writer, a centered pastor, a deeply committed follower of Jesus, and a passionate and loyal husband and father. He invites the reader into his own painful process of grief and loss following the death of his newborn son, offering up thoughtful reflections along the way about how grief has changed him, how faith intersects and wrestles with tragedy, how society expects grief to be much more prescribed and brief than it ever is for people really experiencing it, and how people can support and care for loved ones around them who are going through a time of loss.

You should expect to cry when you read this book. And also to be challenged in how your own responses to grief- both to your own and to the grief of others- may or may not be close enough to the center, honest enough with the pain, faithful and patient enough as you find a way through it.

And if you're trying to find a written and tangible companion for a friend who feels alone in grief, this is absolutely the book you should give them. It honors their struggle, it provides community in their isolation, and it paints an authentic portrait of faithful hope alongside deep grief. I plan on keeping a number of copies on my shelf.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Brink on July 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are very few writers who can write from such a dark and lonely place, and do it with candor, wit, and deep insight, without falling into camp or hyperbole. Mike is one of those writers. I sat down to read A Force of Will and couldn't put it down. Mike shares of his profound journey of working through the loss of his infant son. As a parent, I felt in awe sitting just inside his head at such a traumatic event. How can we not lose our faith in moments of deep tragedy. But Mike carries us through. What makes it so profound is the poetic journey Mike shares with us. During these types of tragedy, most are akin to closing the world off to only the closest of friends. Mike does the opposite. He shares with the world what it means to deal with such tragedy in the way of grace. Thanks Mike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline Carr on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This beautifully written memoir (and more) has been an important landmark for me on the path toward healing in the midst of my own personal journey through grief, pain and loss. If you are weary of mind-numbing easy answers to intense pain and suffering, read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The IEMommy TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
A Force of Will is a sad story of loss and heartbreak and one man's personal journey through his first year of grief after losing his four month old son. Mike Stavlund is a beautiful writer whose words are poetic and posses a depth that brings you right into his heart.

As a parent, this is my worst nightmare. I can't even comprehend the loss that I would feel but after reading this, I feel I have a better understanding of it because Stavlund is so raw and brutally honest. I could literally feel his pain in my heart because his words are so descriptive.

Writing through his pain was probably a very therapeutic way for him to deal with it. It's a way to remain introspective while at the same time, pouring out his feelings with the raw emotion he was feeling, holding nothing back and releasing his grief and agony.

The Eulogy that he someone had the strength to write and read at his sons funeral is beautiful. I wish I were that gifted with words. It's definitely a gift and he has used it to work through his pain and it will certainly help others to do the same who may not be able to voice their own grief in the same way.

A Force of Will is a poetic read, a bit dark and depressing but uplifting at the same time in some way. It's a beautiful thing for a human being to be that in touch with their feelings and share them with the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margot S. Hausmann on March 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
When I cuddle up with a book at night, I'm usually not pining to read about parents' loss of a child. Until now.
Mike Stavlund's book is different. It is beautifully written. It details, candidly, the unpredictable and uncontrollable grief of losing a child. It brilliantly asks the hard questions of God without the desperate need to parrot pat answers. It MAKES ROOM for anyone who has known loss. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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