Written by the parents of two autistic children, The Life We Never Expected contains a wealth of wisdom and practical strategies for raising children with special needs. Keenly insightful and concise enough even for the most sleep-deprived parent, this book radiates empathy and vulnerability as the Wilsons reflect on their parenting experience through five cycles of five repeating themes: weeping, worshipping, waiting, witnessing, and breathe.
The “Weeping” chapters discuss the importance of lamentation and grieving, both before God and with others. As a caretaker of the physically disabled and of children with special needs, these sections deeply resonate with my experience. The book normalizes the anxiety and distress of parents, bringing those emotions into the congregation so that we might “bear one another’s burdens” more honestly.
The parts on “Worshipping” serve as devotionals, emphasizing the priority of the spiritual life in the face of relentless challenges. One of my favorite chapters discusses the preeminence of joy in biblical worship. Andrew quotes C.S. Lewis saying, “It is a Christian duty for everyone to be as happy as he can.” He then reflects on how this “fight for joy” impacts his ability to parent and live well, sharing strategies for finding joy in the Lord.
The “Waiting” sections offer theological reflections on some of our deepest questions, as Christians living in a world fraught with trauma and sorrow. How can we maintain hope in the face of unanswered prayer? How does the parent of a regressing autistic understand the Bible’s healing narratives? These questions are thoughtfully and sensitively explored.
The “Witnessing” chapters alternate between the witness offered by special needs individuals, and the personal witness of God’s faithful care for the Wilson family. One especially poignant story involves a boy with Down’s syndrome. In his infancy, someone prophesied that he would touch nations. At the time, this seemed like a painful reminder of the impossible. But years later, that child met a visitor from Kenya. Astonished by the child’s genuine love for God, the man later accepted a government post advocating for children with special needs.
This vibrant little book reaches an extraordinary level of depth for its brevity. I recommend it not only for caretakers and parents of special needs children, but also for new parents, those in ministry, and anyone struggling to maintain faith in the midst of overwhelming, life-changing circumstances.
Looking for more advice on parenting, especially through difficult seasons? On November 10th-11th, Stone Hill will be holding a forum on parenting teens. Learn more here.
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