The Life We Never Expected: Beautiful and Moving Encouragement for Parents of Children With Special Needs

Leah Courtney
When I read the synopsis of The Life We Never Expected I knew I wanted to read it.

What do you do when hard or painful circumstances turn your world upside down, resulting in a life you never expected? Andrew and Rachel Wilson grappled with this question after both of their children were diagnosed with regressive autism. Refreshingly honest, this book explores the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, reflecting on the broader question of how to cope with suffering of all kinds. Sharing personal stories from their lives and encouragement rooted in the truth of God’s Word, Andrew and Rachel highlight lessons they’ve learned related to fighting for joy and thriving in the midst of trials—ultimately pointing readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new.

Review of The Life We Never Expected for parents of special needs kids

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Having several friends with children who have special needs and having taught special education before I stayed home with my own children, this is something that is near and dear to my heart. And there was something else. Beyond just the subject of special needs, something in this description really resonated with me. Because the fact is that whether it's children with special needs or a problem in our marriage or the unexpected death of a love one, we've all had times when something unexpected happened, when life certainly didn't go the way we had planned. And so I requested The Life We Never Expected to review.

And then life happened. It lay on my review shelf amid other projects awaiting my attention. And I thought I picked it up with all of the reading I gathered for our vacation. But it ended up that I had missed this one. So I arrived home with the intention of a hurried read-through, a review, and then a more in-depth reading...if the book was as good as I expected. I picked up The Life We Never Expected, opened it, and was immediately captured.

I was captured by the raw honesty. Andrew and Rachel Wilson, the book's authors, are the parents of two autistic children. Their children have some pretty intense needs. And their children are still pretty young. But Andrew and Rachel don't claim to be experts who have this whole journey through special needs figured out. They don't claim to understand God's plan and working in their lives. Instead, they tell readers that they looked for a book like this when each of their children was diagnosed and couldn't find one. And so they've written one.

The Life We Never Expected isn't a manual that will tell Christian parents the "right" way to handle the curveball of a special needs child. Andrew and Rachel don't come across as holier than thou people who are especially spiritual and have learned how to copy with all that comes their way. Instead, the book is a raw and honest look at how Christians deal with suffering. And, just as the thought resonated with me when I read the book's synopsis, this book is NOT just for parents with special needs kids. In the introduction Andrew says that the book is written for those parents. It's also written for friends and family members of parents with special needs kids. But it's also written for anyone who's suffered from something unexpected they've encountered, someone who's had life take an unexpected turn.

The chapters of the book follow a cycle- Weeping, Worshiping, Waiting, Witnessing, Breathing. This cycle is taken from Psalm 130- a Psalm of suffering. As Andrew explains in the book's beginning, the Psalmist seems to follow this cycle as he deals with the suffering in his own life. And, as Andrew says, grief and dealing with suffering isn't a linear experience. It's a cycle that can happen over and over again as we process. And for parents of special needs children, it's a cycle that they'll experience over and over as they learn more about their child and care for their child.

In the chapters of the book, Andrew and Rachel follow this cycle, sharing stories from their lives that fit each of these five categories. In some of the stories, you can feel their intense grief. In others you can see bright rays of sunshine that have come into their lives because of their special needs children. But over and over throughout these stories, Andrew and Rachel comfort parents of special needs children and those of us who have experience suffering in other ways. They comfort, not with meaningless platitudes or with success stories that show how life has finally worked out for them in the end, but by consistently bringing readers face to face with God's truths.

The book provides room to grieve, to weep. But it also beautifully, relentlessly points the reader again and again to God's amazing grace, amazing gifts, and amazing love.

There are so many quotes that I've underlined that my book is looking quite marked up. And since this has been a quick read-through, I'm sure I'll read it again, so I can chew on it a little more. Here are just a few of the words that have gone straight to my heart.

  • "I love my kids most not by loving them the most but by first loving God."

  • "I was always inclined to think that God's purposes came about through great leaders...Mostly, however, they don't.They come about through millions of unnamed people doing unheard-of things, in unnoticeable ways to the glory of God."

  • The Lion has tears in his eyes, and although I will never understand all that he's doing, I know that he isn't doing it because he doesn't love me. The cross proves that."
I encourage you to read this book. If you are the parent of special needs children, you need to read this book. If you have friends or family members with special needs children, you need to read this book. If you've ever suffered because of something unexpected in your life, you need to read this book. 

You can find The Life We Never Expected on Amazon here. You can also read a Kindle sample below. And you can enter to win your own copy of the book from FlyBy in the giveaway below.

The Life We Never Expected by parents of special needs kids

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Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

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