Jack Deere has written a memoir about the Christian life that is both disturbing and beautiful. It is disturbing because of the vivid details it provides about the pain and tragedy experienced by Jack and his family. Everything from suicide and alcoholism to sexual assault and drug abuse are covered in its pages. The book is beautiful because it provides hope to those who doubt God’s goodness and find themselves living in similar darkness. The honesty Jack uses to tell his story is refreshing and will encourage anyone who has been wounded by church culture and religiosity. Be warned, however, the book does not hold back about the brutality of life in a fallen world.
Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life retells the story of Jack Deere, a bestselling author and accomplished professor who, despite his achievements, was plagued by brokenness, loss, and heartache. The book begins with the tragic death of his son, Scott. Scott was a rambunctious child who surrendered to drugs and left a path of emotional destruction in his relationships. Stints in rehab and the welcome and care of friends were not enough for Scott to overcome his demons. While Jack was writing a book in his living room, his son took his own life in an upstairs bedroom by pulling the trigger of a revolver. Moments later, Jack and his wife stood over the lifeless body of their second son.
The suicide was not the first to torment Jack’s life. Many years prior to his son’s death, Jack’s father succumbed to the same plight. He describes in detail the bitterness that wreaked havoc in his parents marriage. His father worked extended hours and was rarely home. His mother was angry and would lash out at her husband. Eventually, Jack’s father ended his life with a bullet. After the death, his mother’s rage turned to alcohol abuse.
Jack’s wife also became addicted to alcohol after her lose. The struggle created division in their marriage for a season. To make matters worse, it was made known that her father sexually abused her for years during her upbringing. She eventually agreed to rehab and found some healing.
The story is not entirely dark. I enjoyed the chapters dedicated to Jack’s participation in Young Life. He was mentored by a man named Scott Manley. Scott was a Young Life leader turned Oklahoma City Area Director and taught Jack all about having a relationship with Jesus and effectively running a YL club. Jack would eventually lead a club of 250 high school kids, although, in his early attempts, he experienced major declines in attendance. Jack felt more astute at grappling with difficult biblical and theological concepts than speaking in front high school students about life with God. Scott was like a father figure to Jack by coming alongside him and being involved in his life. Scott took a keen interest in the things Jack was learning in school and was always initiating moments to be together.
In the midst of Young Life and college, Jack found himself in a dating relationship in which he crossed every line but sex. He was proud of his ability to abstain from sex until marriage. For the sake of keeping his Christian image, he broke up with his girlfriend who was forced to drive hundreds of miles back to her college campus confused and heartbroken. Jack wanted everyone to believe he was a great Christian, but on the inside, he was deteriorating from lust and pride. His pride kept him from experiencing the kind of love that every human heart longs for because he hid behind his intellect and a false sense of religion.
Jack thrived in academia. He earned his Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary under a mentor named Dr. Bruce Waltke. Jack eventually gained tenor as a professor of Old Testament at DTS. After making a reputable name for himself at the conservative seminary, Jack became close with John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement. Because of the movement’s stance on the charismatic gifts, Jack was fired from his position. Nonetheless, his fame spread as he wrote books and traveled with the church speaking at conferences. Jack, as he describes it, was full of pride and knew a lot about God but hadn’t developed a personal relationship with him.
Even in Our Darkness is not a book for the lighthearted. It offers an honest look into the broken life of one of God’s children. The Bible talks a lot about sin and life in our fallen world. It teaches that sin entered the world when humanity rebelled against its creator and hardship has been the result ever since. Some still falsely believe the Gospel of Jesus teaches that he will solve all their problems. Even in Our Darkness attests to the fact that life can be extremely difficult and dysfunctional as a result of sin. Like the book of Job, I was expecting a great resolution and story about how everything was restored to Jack and his family. The resolution never came. Instead, Jack seemed to come to terms with the affliction of life while never losing faith in God. I would recommend the book to anyone who appreciates honesty and authenticity. I’d warn others against it due to its rawness.