Deep Calls to Deep by Tony Horsfall
Personal grief leads to a fresh understanding of the Psalms - and 'one of the best devotional books I have read in a long time'
Deep Calls to Deep - Spiritual formation in the hard places of life
By Tony Horsfall
Bible Reading Fellowship
ISBN: 978 1 80039 066 9
Reviewed by: Martin M’Caw
Tony Horsfall delves into the experiences of casualties on the roller coaster of life. The seeds of the book were sown by having to come to terms with his own experience of Covid from the perspective of an intensive care unit, quickly followed by the death of his wife of 46 years from cancer. An experience which found him asking questions such as what does God think He is playing at, and why has the God of love messed up my life?
His search for answers led him to get to grips with a fresh understanding of the Psalms. He delves into what he calls the depths of failure, despair, unjust suffering and darkness.
He identifies three stages of progression in the Psalmist’s experience. The normal orientation of daily life is followed by experiences of disorientation when everything falls apart at the seams. Re-orientation happens when God eventually brings deliverance and a fresh perspective of faith.
After considering each of his chosen ‘sad Psalms’ he illustrates each theme with very telling contemporary accounts of the experiences of friends and colleagues. He aligns these three stages of experience with a New Testament parallel in ‘life, death and resurrection’.
His emphasis is wholly pastoral rather than academic, although he uses quotations from various scholars listed in the footnotes. He writes ‘there is no easy path to maturity.’ God’s invitation to deeper things is not for the faint-hearted, but the ‘robust and brave’ who are wishing to walk where Jesus walked in the deep places of life. He thinks there is a trend in both society church that looks for prosperity, comfort and the avoidance of suffering. He posits a difference between knowledge which has to do with facts and data, and understanding which is found in the heart through the hard journey of suffering experience and insight. The final section contains very pertinent questions for group discussion relating to the psalms of lament he has been exploring: an excellent tool to stimulate conversation in Bible study groups.
This is one of the best devotional books I have read in a long time. It is far from superficial and shows that God is not picking on us when our world falls apart, and our prayers are not answered leaving us floundering in the pit. We can’t pin God into a corner and have to trust that he does not desert us, but guides us ‘unseen yet forever at hand’ through the protracted troubles that deepen our trust in the God of all grace. Get a copy and learn from it, or get a copy to pass on to a friend.
The Revd Dr Martin M’Caw is a retired Baptist minister, and retired Wing Chaplain to No2 Welsh Wing RAF Cadets