I read many books that I enjoy, or that I find informative or helpful in some way, but not necessarily many that I would say changed my life.
This book is one of the exceptions.
For my Book Share last month, I talked about Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity, a book that has been a great help to me when it comes to prioritizing my commitments and scheduling my life and activities. I continue to draw from it, and I find myself happier and more at peace when I’m trying to follow some of the principles I learned from it.
But this month I want to turn toward a book of a much heavier nature, but one that had a profound effect upon me personally.
by Jerry Sittser
Listen, everybody deals with loss on some level. And yet, especially as Christians, sometimes I think we do a terrible job of recognizing the deep and lasting effects of loss. We want people to have faith, move past their grief to find healing, and do it as quickly and seamlessly as possible. We try to require the same of ourselves, and then when we struggle, we may plunge even deeper into despair as we are overcome with guilt and a sense of failure because we find ourselves without faith enough to move past our pain.
But loss and grief can truly serve a priceless and very beautiful role in the Christian life. To dismiss it, or to rush it, is to disregard one of God’s most powerful means of changing us into the people we ought to be.
I first heard this book referenced in a sermon, and the quotes read from it that day were enough to convince me I had to find it and buy it at the earliest opportunity. It was one of the best book purchases I have ever made. I literally wept my way through A Grace Disguised, and it helped me so much to learn to trust God’s sovereignty, to see the potential for beauty in brokenness, and to learn to forgive. It was a tremendous help to me in dealing with circumstances that were fresh at the time, but also helped me deal with some grief I had carried for years.
I will allow the author to tell his own story, but Jerry Sittser is a man acquainted with loss. He speaks frankly about his own tragedy and details the ups and downs of the grieving process in a way that was refreshingly real and honest. It gives validation to grief and purpose to pain, without throwing around a lot of worthless platitudes that sometimes do more to downplay loss than to really help anyone cope with it.
Let me add that I truly believe this book can be as much of a guide for ministering to others who have suffered loss as it can be a source of personal help and healing. Sittser mentions that a person’s point of loss will often come through in their everyday conversation and I have been amazed how often I have found that to be true since. No matter their background or personality, you don’t normally have to talk to someone for long before their personal losses will begin to come to the surface. Now that I know to listen for it, it isn’t unusual to be talking to someone, sometimes even a complete stranger, and hear something like this…
“After I went through my divorce…”
“When I lost my daughter in a car accident…”
“Then I was let go after 19 years on the job…”
“When I was told we would never have children…”
Loss can look so different for different people, but if you listen, you will hear it. Learning to recognize points of loss in people’s lives can build our compassion for others, and give us insight into who they are as a person. I try now to be aware of people’s loss — Knowledge of it can help me be a better and more understanding friend, and help me minister to them in a more effective way.
**I want to note that the author does on a couple of occasions quote Christian mystics with whom I am totally unfamiliar. While I don’t recall any of the quotes running contrary to scripture in any way, and I felt the references were too minor to keep me from sharing about A Grace Disguised, I did want to make my readers aware of them. I encourage discernment as you read this and any book.
If you have suffered loss, or would like to help a friend or family member struggling with grief, I highly recommend A Grace Disguised. I’ve read other books dealing with issues of sorrow and grief, but none have been so personally impactful as this book. Not only did it help me find healing, but it has been a tremendous source of help in my desire to minister to others as well.