Joy in the Journey
Steve Hayner was serving as president of Columbia Seminary and was healthy and fit when he found out he had terminal pancreatic cancer. He and his wife, Sharol, embarked on a journey together with their children that soon included tens of thousands of visits from friends and acquaintances via the CaringBridge website. The overwhelming response to their posts on this website attested to the surprising and engaging way that they chose to live in the face of death.
As a result they uncovered the remarkable truth that God, our good Shepherd, provides a feast for us when we are in the valley of the shadow of death as well as in the green pastures.
Steve was always known for signing letters and emails, "joyfully." These pages, including reflections from some of those closest to Steve and Sharol, offer us a hope-filled glimpse into what it means to walk with God in honesty, with joy, even through great pain.
"I first came to know Steve as a teacher when he was called to serve as professor of evangelism at Columbia Theological Seminary. . . . This book is an example of Steve as a teacher. It is real, honest and truthful. Like Steve, it inspires, challenges, encourages and changes us all as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. What Steve and Sharol Hayner both teach us through their amazing writing is how to trust, be vulnerable, grieve and, yes, be joyful even as one is dying. They teach us through their abiding faith, humility, sadness, frustration and candor."
"Seldom have I been as moved as in reading these epistles from Steve and Sharol Hayner—each ending 'Joyfully yours.' Through his life Steve helped so many to find life in all its fullness in Christ. Now, with his beloved Sharol, he guides us through the ending of life in fullness of hope. Thanks to InterVarsity Press for what I believe will become a classic."
"With remarkable candor, Steve and Sharol Hayner teach us how to live in the face of dying. Over nine months of physical decline, they lay bare a wide range of emotions—faith and fear, grace and grief, poignancy and pain. The journey, though hellish at times, is punctuated by the Lord's presence, family love and proactive friends. Years ago, I followed Steve to InterVarsity. Someday, when my health fails, I will follow him to glory. When that happens, I want to emulate his journey of dignity, courage and joy."
"Steve and Sharol Hayner spent their lives teaching everyone who knew them just what it means to truly live for Christ. Then during Steve's final months of life, they taught us how to truly die in Christ. They shared their experience with us through a series of remarkable journals chronicling how they found deep joy in Christ in the midst of acute suffering, dying and death. I had hoped that these beautiful and inspiring journals would be published so they could bless others who might be walking through their own valleys. This small book will now help countless others to find the still, small voice of God in the midst of their own tempest. He is risen indeed!"
"Steve Hayner has been first a hero and then a friend since I met him many years ago. He was a people magnet and an idea machine and an energy force. To follow the journey that he and Sharol traveled together through the valley of the shadow of death was a privilege and a heartbreak and an education in hope. I'm grateful their searing, aching, honest, inspiring words are now permanently available. I cannot imagine a human being who would not benefit from it."
"Throughout nine months of enduring terminal cancer, Steve and Sharol hide nothing of their struggle, and yet withhold nothing of their bold faith. This is a rare gift, to be invited into a journey so utterly full and overflowing with both the depth of pain and loss and yet the anchor of hope. I will always count it as one of my greatest treasures to have known Steve in both life and death."
"Joy in the Journey is a simple and yet profound testimony of a man of faith embracing life in death, and of a woman keeping faith and loving her husband all the way to the grave. It is a moving testimony of how it is that in the season of dying one comes to terms with what life is all about, the truths of the gospel and God's call today. It is amazing how it all becomes clearer in the darker seasons of life. In these pages we receive glimpses into that 'over all presence of God' that makes gratitude and joy possible all the time, even in suffering, grieving and dying!"
"I've never known anyone who lived more faithfully, led more purposefully and died more gracefully than Steve Hayner. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to live a life of purpose and joy to the end. I highly recommend it!"
"Few teach us how to die. Steve Hayner did. His honest, thoughtful, realistic reflections—full of faith and joy—are a gift to those of us who wonder what our final transition from life to 'life in the full' will be like. Steve and Sharol Hayner are the real deal—joyful followers of Jesus sharing how they together faced death."
"'In life and in death we belong to God' are words often spoken by people of faith facing extraordinary life challenges. It was not until I witnessed those words made flesh in Steve and Sharol Hayner's exquisitely expressed reflections on their journey that I truly understood the depth of their meaning. Many books try to capture the essence of how to live while dying. Joy in the Journey hits the mark, leaving its readers certain of one thing: life lived joyfully is a gift that keeps on giving. Thank you, Steve!"
"This incredible little book offers a window into the soul of a dying man and his wife. Both of them are highly trained in theology, and some of their observations grapple courageously with God in the voice of the Psalmists. But most of their writings are a response to be faithful to God in the midst of this great interruption of their lives. Anyone who knew Steve will not be surprised that the response is always about joy."
"For nine months Steve Hayner fought a losing battle against an aggressive pancreatic cancer. During that time both he and his wife kept in touch with friends and relatives through the CaringBridge website. Their journals provide an intimate look at the struggles they faced together and individually—and what trusting God looks like. There's wisdom here for others facing illness, or befriending those who do. They write of hymns and the succor they receive from knowing that people are praying. Notes of encouragement bring 'hope and joy, not to mention distraction from some of the daily grind of this disease.'"
"Steve, Sharol, and friends all display a vision of looking ahead to the joyful life with Christ, and the hope that is brought through reflection on the Word of God. Interspersed throughout the book are poems and hymns, allusions to and quotes from the Bible, and more. These tidbits are not just insights into the hope found in Jesus, but also provide ways to reflect upon grief and joy in life. . . . Joy in the Journey is a hard read, but one that provides several helpful insights into living—and, sadly but necessarily, dying—well."
"Steve and Sharol lived in and wrote about the victory they already had in Jesus. I found hope on every page."
"Written as a series of journal entries on CaringBridge.org, this intensely personal book follows the journey on which cancer took the Hayner family. . . . This book would be good for those who are on a cancer journey themselves, as well as friends and family members who want a greater understanding of what is happening and what to expect."
"Steve Hayner signed his letters 'Joyfully.' That's the benediction appended to his death in this collection of helpful, humble, and heartfelt blog posts he wrote with his wife, Sharol. The Hayners, Presbyterian ministers, logged entries from the day in April when Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer until Sharol wrote her final entries alone after Steve had died. . . . The essays telling titles include 'Waiting,' 'Grace Notes,' and 'New Year, Last Chapter.' Sharol often turns to Psalms for succor, and she shepherds readers with her. . . . The authors often thank their blog's followers; a few readers responses are blurbed. Eulogies for Steve, written by friends and the Hayners' children, end this joy-themed book."
"Joy in the Journey is a book to be savored slowly, read and reread, to be given to friends and family, to be a guide on the journey of life and death. . . . This book is a gift for all of us who struggle to follow Christ in the midst of life and death. . . . Through this book, Steve's life continues to ripple and ripple, teaching us to live joyfully in the midst of pain and to trust that 'in life and in death we belong to God.'"
Foreword by Mark Labberton
Foreword by Alex Gee
Epilogue: Journeying to Final Joy
God with Us: A Confession of Faith