For David Swanson, Everlasting Life (Baker Books, June) is the book he's always wanted to write. As senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., he's been in many situations involving dying and grieving people.
Swanson, also author of Learning to Be You: How Our True Identity in Christ Sets Us Free (Baker Books, 2012), says, "When we know how the story turns out, it makes our experiences in the present more hopeful and meaningful."
Everlasting Life is unapologetically an exploration of a Christian view of death. "Knowledge of heaven informs our present as Christians. Our attitude in the day-to-day will be very different because we know what will happen in the end," says Swanson, who is also part of a nationwide ministry called the Well that reaches more than 100,000 via Christian television each week.
A blend of advice and help for people in ministry like pastors and counselors, Everlasting Life also could be used in class by seminarians, by those who are facing death themselves or who are close to someone near death, or even by those who simply want to explore this enduring subject.
The genesis for Swanson's book was a four-week sermon series he preached in 2006. It struck a chord, prompting many questions and eventually generating several classes at the church. Swanson has also accompanied many who are dying or grieving through that process, and seen others say dramatically wrong things ("It's God's will"; "Call me if there's anything I can do")."I want this book to help prepare people to have some idea of the dynamics and emotions of this process, to learn what helps and what doesn't," he says. "Because they're afraid of saying the wrong thing, people don't show up. I hope the book helps people overcome fear and equips them to say the right things." His advice? Be present, be hopeful, be prayerful.
Swanson admits that the book was difficult to write at times because someone close to him had died. "Reliving that was emotional and draining, but cathartic in a way," he says. "It helped me process a lot of my own feelings."