In 1991 Jerry Sittser’s wife, mother, and 4-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. In A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, Dr. Sittser shares his pain in the aftermath of the accident, his struggles to make sense of a a senseless tragedy, his attempts to be a faithful loving father to his three traumatized children, his wrestling with God, and his wondering if God is good or trustworthy.
Although the book is deeply personal, born as it was out of this horrible loss, it is not only personal. Dr. Sittser’s own loss and suffering is his entry point into larger questions about loss: Can we quantify it? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some people grow through loss and other people become embittered? How can we live with hope and love in the midst and the wake of loss? How can we trust God in such circumstances?
But the book is not just for those who have experienced the kind of catastrophic loss Dr. Sittser experienced. It is for anyone who has known disappointment or suffering of any kind in any degree – which includes pretty much all of us.
Because of his intense honesty – Dr. Sittser shines a light on the dark places in his soul, allowing us to see his pain, his confusion, his anger, and his fear – he offers readers a guide through struggle, disappointment, loss, and the various emotions, temptations, and questions we experience in such circumstances. He is a gracious guide, and a wise one.
“It is not,” he writes, “what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us….We do not always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given.”
He is also a hopeful guide, showing the light that will dawn, however faintly, on the other side – and in the midst of – pain:
“What I once considered mutually exclusive – sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, death and life – have become parts of a greater whole. My soul has been stretched….[It] has been awakened to the goodness and love of God….God is growing my soul, making it bigger, and filling it with himself. My life is being transformed.”
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not an easy read, but it’s worth every word.
Jerry Sittser will be speaking at Bethany Presbyterian Church tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow (Saturday) at 9 a.m. He’ll also be preaching there on Sunday at 9 and 10:45 a.m. and 5 p.m.