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When his oldest son was diagnosed with severe autism, pastor Jason Hague found himself trapped, stuck between perpetual sadness and a lower, safer kind of hope. This is the common struggle for those of us walking through the Land of Unanswered Prayer. Life doesn’t look the way we expected, so we seek to protect ourselves from further disappointment.

But God has a third path for us, beyond sadness or resignation: the way of aching joy. Christ himself is with us here, beckoning us toward the treasures hidden in the darkness.

Aching Joy is an honest psalm of hope for those walking between pain and promise: the aching of a broken world and the beauty of a loving God. In this place, rather than trying to dodge the pain, we choose to feel it all—and to see where Jesus is in the midst of struggle. And because we make that choice, we feel all the good that comes with it, too.

This is Jason’s story. This is your story. Come, find your joy within the aching.

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5.5 x 8.25 in.

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The best memoirs tell a story that is specific and individual and yet somehow transcends particularity. Aching Joy tells a story of one man’s pain and growth in the years following his son’s diagnosis with autism, and at the same time, this book invites me into reflection about my own experience with pain, denial, hope, and healing. As this father begins to let go of fear and open his heart up to trust, I, too, am invited to explore all the ways I have shut myself off from the ache, and the joy, of full life.

Honest, wise, beautiful. After I lost a dear friend, Aching Joy was precisely what I needed to read. Jason Hague’s honesty about his own failings, doubts, and questions about God in a painful season of his family’s life made me feel like I wasn’t alone. His insights, wisdom, and sensitivity to God gave me hope. I cried multiple times reading this book. Highly recommended.

Sometimes we beg God for an answer to prayer and don’t receive it. Then what? Hague writes with raw honesty about his son’s autism diagnosis—and the prayer requests denied. I don’t know the source of your begging (mine was different from Hague’s), but you’ll grow through the universal wisdom found in this book, which helps readers see that God is still in the story—and that our circumstances don’t get to decide our levels of joy. A new kind of joy—an aching joy—awaits.

Jason accomplishes the extraordinary: He teaches and shares wisdom without condescension. He preaches without being preachy. With honesty and humility, he shares the unvarnished, unfiltered challenges that confront every special-needs parent and the wisdom that is earned through facing those challenges with honest personal and spiritual reflection. His love for his family drips from every page, and the wisdom he shares translates to anyone facing a critical life challenge. This is an important book and an important message. I’m honored to call him my friend.

Jason Hague is a modern-day psalmist. His words ring with courage, honesty, transparency, and raw beauty. He shines a light in the darkness to remind us that every single emotion is safe before a sovereign God who is big enough to hold all the pieces.

When followers of Jesus face devastating pain, unanswered prayer, and dashed hopes, Jason Hague says Western Christianity offers two options: a pious, naive, praise-the-Lord-anyway optimism or a realistic, resigned, Where are you, God? despair. Through the raw story of his relationship with his son Jack, who wrestles with autism, Hague offers another path: courageously walking alongside a relentlessly loving Father into a life of deep mystery—the mystery of fully embracing both the hopeful, redemptive dreams of victory and the disappointment of unexplained, bleeding-out defeat. In other words, a mysterious, powerful life of . . . aching joy.

My family’s story and Jason’s family’s story are very similar, but the themes of Aching Joy are universal. We all wonder what God is up to in times of hardship, especially when it seems to go on for years. Jason’s transparency is a gift that shows us how to live with both joy and longing. His courage to share his experiences gives me courage to keep holding on to God as I raise my son, who has Level 3 autism. Following Jason’s example, I can rejoice in my hopes, be patient in my trials, and persevere in my prayers, as the apostle Paul instructs us.

Jason Hague’s book, Aching Joy, is for anyone whose dreams have at one time turned to rubble in “the Land of Unanswered Prayer,” which is “just east of Acceptance and west of Breakthrough.” It is also for parents of children who have special needs (or their friends), or anyone who walks alongside families with a loved one on the autism spectrum. The struggles Hague’s son experiences trying to express his inner world, as well as the turmoil Hague describes in his efforts to truly have a relationship with his son, ring with gritty honesty and give no easy answers. But there is beauty and redemption. As Hague moves through the graveyard of his hopes, while still believing—or trying to believe—in an almighty Father who can move mountains, he gains insights into “incarnational parenting” that are full of startling joy—and hope—for us all, whatever our journeys.