A Glorious Dark

Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience

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When what you believe isn't what you see

On Thursday as they ate the Passover meal with Jesus, the disciples believed that the kingdom was coming and they were on the front end of a revolution. Then came the tragedy of Friday and the silence of Saturday. They ran. They doubted. They despaired. From their perspective, all was lost.

Yet, within the grave, God's power was still flowing like a mighty river beneath the ice of winter. And then there was Sunday morning.

Real, raw, and achingly honest, A Glorious Dark meets us right in those uncomfortable moments when our beliefs about the world don't match up with reality. Tackling tough questions like Why is faith so hard? Why do I doubt? Why does God allow me to suffer? and Is God really with me in the midst of my pain? A. J. Swoboda invites us to develop a faith that embraces the tension between what we believe and what we experience, showing that it is in the very tension we seek to eliminate that God meets us.

"Too often Western Christian churches focus only on the sunny side of life. Why? Because it takes far more courage to walk into the darkness. Lucky for us, A. J. Swoboda has the guts to pierce the darkness and search for God there."--Jonathan Merritt, author of Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined; senior columnist for Religion News Service

A. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) teaches theology, biblical studies, and Christian history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. A. J. started and serves Theophilus Church in urban Portland. He is the author of Messy and is the coauthor of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology.


"Life, like the moon, has a shadow side. Yet too often Western Christian churches focus only on the sunny side of life. Why? Because it takes far more courage to walk into the darkness. Lucky for us, A. J. Swoboda has the guts to pierce the darkness and search for God there. A Glorious Dark touches a nerve by bravely wrestling with all the things that go bump in the night. But more importantly, it leads us into the presence of the One who once told a shadow-soaked prophet, 'I form the light and the dark.'"

Jonathan Merritt, author of Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined; senior columnist for Religion News Service

"A. J. writes with the passion of a genuine seeker and with the reflective insight of a true mystic. Here he turns his attention to the meaning of Jesus's death and resurrection. We find ourselves drawn into the momentous events of cross and resurrection yet again."

Alan Hirsch, author, activist, dreamer; www.alanhirsch.org

"Once upon a time, there was a man who saw the breadth of God's strange redemption in just three days of Holy Week. That man is A. J. Swoboda and this is his book. It is funny, honest, literary, outward looking, inward looking, and upward looking. 'Stars are only seen when it's dark,' Swoboda writes. Indeed, and it is rare to find both stars and their darkness so beautifully charted in ink. A glorious read."

Paul Pastor, associate editor for Christianity Today's Leadership Journal and PARSE

"A Glorious Dark is a brilliant display of the cross of Christ. My heart and mind were awakened by A. J. Swoboda creatively redeeming everything from personal experience to insightful apologetics, from Star Wars to Jean-Paul Sartre. He challenged me to confront long-held myths that dead-ended my faith. For any serious student of life, A Glorious Dark is a must read!"

Wayne Cordeiro, author and pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship, Honolulu, Hawaii

"Attention is owed to any writer who can excavate the deep theological meaning of Scooby-Doo and apply it articulately to Christian faith--and that writer is A. J. Swoboda! With spark, passion, and an engaging accessibility, Swoboda successfully makes the case for a holistic Christian life that holds in tension the poles of light and dark, triumph and loss. Highly recommended."

Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today contributing columnist; author of The Evangelicals You Don't Know

"Just as the real story of Golgatha is of three crosses, not one, so theologian A. J. Swoboda shows in fiery wisdom and icy wit how the real story of Holy Week is of three days, not one. This is a book I will get out and reread every Holy Week for the rest of my life--to keep the gospel 'good news' that stays good and stays news."

Leonard Sweet, bestselling author; professor at Drew University and George Fox University; chief contributor to Sermons.com

"Is our Christian faith painful, awkward, or hopeful? That's like asking if water is a solid, liquid, or gas. The answer is emphatically Yes! A. J. Swoboda reminds us that although we want to pick and choose, God knows we need the full spectrum of death, descent, and resurrection to abide with Christ. When A Glorious Dark arrived, I intended to only take a quick peek at the introduction, but I immediately got hooked and abandoned all other responsibilities for the day. Gloriously enlightening--the kind of book you want to reread as soon as you finish and then share with a friend."

Nancy Sleeth, author of Almost Amish; cofounder of Blessed Earth

"A. J. Swoboda has written a beautiful book. It felt like reading the Psalms. He touches on the full bandwidth of the human experience with compassion, honesty, insight, and humor. And this book ruminates with love for God. Not the sentimental love of evangelical culture, but a deep clinging to Jesus through all the complexities of faith and discipleship. This book will resonate deeply and inspire faith to walk boldly into the glorious dark."

Jon Tyson, pastor at Trinity Grace Church, New York; author of Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters

"How can one person be so funny and so deep all at once? A. J. is like Seinfeld and Søren Kierkegaard rolled into one. If you want dry diatribes or funny fluff, look elsewhere. But if you want to dive deep into the raging river of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection--and learn, while swimming, why God is like Chewbacca, faith is either a Polaroid or an Etch-a-Sketch, and Jesus is not like Hulk Hogan in a burger joint--then look no further. This book is hilarious and holy in all the right ways!"

Joshua Ryan Butler, author of The Skeletons in God's Closet; pastor at Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon

The Author

  1. A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) is assistant professor of Bible, theology, and world Christianity at Bushnell University. He also leads a Doctor of Ministry program around the Holy Spirit and leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the...

    Continue reading about A. J. Swoboda


"Reminiscent of the deep, earthy work of Frederick Buechner, A Glorious Dark is a finely crafted exploration of Christian spirituality. Structered around the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Swoboda reflects on how each of these days contributes uniquely to the work of imagining and embodying our faith."