Revisiting ‘A Severe Mercy’—40 Years Later

Russ Ramsey | May 19, 2017

Editors’ note: Taking the advice of C. S. Lewis, we want to help our readers “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds,” which, as he argued, “can be done only by reading old books.” So to that end we continue our Rediscovering the Forgotten Classics series as we survey some forgotten and lesser-known Christian classics.

A few years ago, I came face to face with my own mortality in a way that required me to prepare to die. I remember being struck with a deep curiosity about what would come of me as my affliction and faith collided. I honestly didn’t know. This curiosity made me want to write about my experience. It also made me want to take Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy, and Triumph down from the shelf and read it again.

When someone writes with confidence about things they haven’t experienced, my attention span runs short. Swagger doesn’t equal wisdom. But when someone writes questioningly about something they’ve known firsthand, I lean in. Experience generates questions that cut through our assumptions about how a thing is supposed to work and make us survey the land where the thing is actually…

To read the rest of this article, visit