A friend from church recently told me about this book that has to do with grief: Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995, 2004). This book is the outcome of Sittser’s deep, dark, emotional, and faith-filled fight with grief after he lost his mother, young daughter, and wife in a single car accident. He had to continue with life after the tragedy, however, because three of his children survived the accident. A Grace Disguised is definitely not a macho “suck-it-up-and-drive-on” self-help book, nor is it feminine “get-in-touch-with-your-inner-feelings” fluff; rather, it is more like a modern-day psalm of lament with bright glimmers of Christian hope dispersed throughout.
It did hurt me to read this book. Even to think of losing my little girl, my wife, or my mother in such a tragic manner brings me to tears. I had to set the book down from time to time because I didn’t like the pain. When you read this book you go through the grief with Sittser. However, he doesn’t really talk about his experience in order to put himself or his family front and center. In fact, over and over he says how many times he failed to deal with grief and its effects in a proper way. Sittser doesn’t make himself out to be a saint in this book! But he does explain his experience and brokenness in order to put the focus on God’s grace which penetrates through grief to cause growth.
Here are a few lines from the book that I highlighted.
“…I lost all hope, collapsed to the ground, and fell into despair. I thought at that moment that I would live in darkness forever. I felt absolute terror in my soul” (p. 41).
“Sorrow is noble and gracious. It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of mourning and rejoicing simultaneously…however painful, sorrow is good for the soul” (p. 74).
“Catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity” (p. 81).
“What is bad will always be bad. But grace will bring good out of a bad situation; it will take an evil and somehow turn it into something that results in good. That is what God accomplished through the crucifixion. He turned the evil of an unjust murder into the good of salvation. God can do the same for us as well” (p. 105).
“The sorrow I feel has not disappeared, but it has been integrated into my life as a painful part of a healthy whole” (p. 51).
I cannot recommend this book enough. If I were a rich man, I’d purchase a few cases of these and give them out to any of our readers who have faced grief in the past or are facing it now. And I’d send a copy to many pastors and elders (and others) who minister to those in sorrow. I’m confident most of our readers would benefit from this book. It is short, clear, vivid, and full of grace. Please, get this book: A Grace Disguised. It will hurt, but it will open your eyes to see hope amidst the hurt.
rev shane lems