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on April 20, 2005
Personal Impact

A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser has impacted me in a rare and profound way. Never have I read a book that tackles the heart of the issue of suffering and the heart of humanity harmoniously and with such eloquence as Sitter's. Sittser engages his audience by peeling away the layers of his thought and into the depths of the pain that he suffered when his mother, wife, and youngest daughter were killed instantly after a head-on collision with a drunk driver. It is plain to see that he has spent countless hours in agony, reasoning out his thoughts, struggling with his faith, and just in living an ordinary life after the accident. The reader is a helpless and captive audience as he describes how he dealt with spiritual issues such as faith in God's sovereignty and emotional issues such as the inability to forgive. Through it all, Sittser recognized that he can never get over the tragedy, but he can allow it to grow him through the choices he makes in response to it.

Personally, by the grace of God, I have never had to experience the mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish of such a tragedy. But after reading this book, I know that I am better prepared to deal with any such occurrence in my life for the future. Sittser's writing made me admire the resiliency of the human spirit, and also appreciate the role of faith in overcoming devastating loss. Sittser was able to overcome his anguish largely because of his well-grounded faith in the promises of God, and his faith in the absolute standards of morality and justice of which God is the source. I can only hope to be able to handle catastrophic losses (which he points out are inevitable) with such grace and sound mind. At the very least, this book made me appreciate all that I have at this moment, especially my wife, my family, and all who I hold dear.

Ministry Impact

Many people respond in different ways to grief, and therefore to any remedy for it. There is no cure-all to the grief that catastrophic losses bring. However, Sittser is able to present a unique, first-hand perspective that may benefit many believers and non-believers alike in facing their loss and finding God's love and grace behind it. No one is able to connect with a mourner as much as another mourner. For the benefit of those situations where "just being there" is not enough, this book may be a welcome aide. It can be a gentle guide for the inconsolable spirit. I would suggest that anybody in pastoral ministry or counseling should read this book at least twice and internalize his main points in each chapter. I am likely to make this book a required reading for any staff that I train in the future. As every life is marked with times of great joy and times of great grief, I believe that all pastors should be prepared to face these events with their flock, whether those events are good or bad, and point toward God's hidden grace.
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on August 23, 2006
This book was both disturbing and encouraging at the same time. It was disturbing because I realized how short my own response to tragedy fell as I read Dr. Sittser's account. He stuggled mightily to understand whether his relationship with God could survive his personal tragedy. As he confronted the tough questions he did so honestly and not withholding his true questions and feelings. It was encouraging to see how the honesty of this theologian was used by God to bring healing and hope.

I am just now working through some of those questions 26 years after my wife died in an accident in which I was the driver. I only wish I could have dealt with those same questions in the years immediately following my loss and not so many years later. This book would have made such a difference in my life.

I highly recommend Dr. Sittser's book to anyone dealing with loss, whether recent or delayed such as mine. The chapter on the Sovereignty of God is perhaps the best treatment of that subject I have ever read.

Dr. Sittser's book on "The Will of God as a Way of Life" is a great followup to this book, as it gives practical ways to move on and discover what God would have you do with the experience of loss.
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on January 16, 2007
I discovered this book 10 years ago after the death of my older sister. I thought I stumbled across this book by accident at a bookstore, but I know now that it was no accident. I am reading this book for the third time and it will never be put away on a shelf. It has new meaning and insight each time I read it over again. This little book is a gift from God.
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on April 17, 2010
If you have lost someone you love then this book can really help you understand and put your loss in perspective. The author lost three generations of his own family in one auto accident, his mother, wife and daughter. His Biblical wisdom and thoughtfulness has me going back to read and re-read often. One quote, in particular, I keep going back to and back to is, "I did not get over the loss of my loved ones: rather I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am." This book has helped me immensely in dealing with the lose of my husband. I have also shared the book with many others. Right now I am reading it with friend who lost both a newborn child and her mother both within a year. I truly think this book has helped to give me a peace about the loss of my loved one that I could not have had without this author's uncanny understanding and willingness to share his thoughts.
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on January 1, 2009
...when I received the phone call. I had stayed home from church with a sore heel when I picked up my phone to see my best friend was calling. It wasn't her though, it was someone else--her mother, calling to tell me that their dear girl was taken from us in a horrible accident. I had to break the news to one of her best friends, my daughter. The grief had our whole county reeling.

After the dust settled, the funeral and memorials done, the semester over, I had time at the bookstore to comb through all the books on grief. Of course I looked over Lewis and the other major Christian writers, but they weren't of much use to myself and my pain. Lewis--God bless him--lost a wife to cancer after she had a full life. Our girl was 11.

Sittser knows grief. He knows sudden, horrible, irrevocable death; trauma, tragedy and loss. Loss with a capital L. He lost his wife, his four-year-old daughter and his mother before his eyes during a drunk driving accident. As a well-respected Fuller seminarian, he was encouraged by his friends to write down his observation and addressed the concept and effects of catastrophic loss a full three years after the accident.

Now that I have said why this book was relative to me, let me tell you why it's relative to you and everyone you know: he makes one thing firm--loss is loss, and cannot be qualified as more or less. He does not feel that his loss was greater than anyone else's, for all loss is relative to the person who is doing the losing, whether that someone's a parent, a unemployed mom, or a father trying to cope with his children after divorce. He clearly states that losing a job, for instance, is a loss. Rape is a loss. Divorce is a loss. Death constitutes a loss. Loss is loss is loss. This book adroitly and honestly discusses them all, his experience with grief in really honest detail. I'd like to point out here that this particular edition is the tenth anniversary, as well, and he covers the lives of himself and his children in the intervening years and would be a better buy that the original for it's epilogue.

And before you finish reading this, can I offer some advice? If you're shopping for a friend that has just lost someone, give them a considerable amount of time, and then give them this book. For goodness sakes, don't bring over a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven, (my friends had two by the end of the second day) especially to a grieving parent. Although that is an especially good book about suffering, his life went on. Our girl's didn't.
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on September 21, 2006
I read this book because I knew Jerry and his wife when he was the chaplain at Northwestern college in Iowa. Now I'm a pastor's wife and deal with grief and loss regularly and in many different ways in our church. This book, by far is the best I've read because Jerry allows us to enter into his struggle with God with honesty and boldness that is often avoided by Christians. And, in the end, his conclusions are not nice, neat packages with bows or pithy sentiments, but real theology based on who God is, not who I want God to be.
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on May 24, 2006
Sittser, Jerry A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1995. (184 pages)

A Grace Disguised may well be the best and most impacting book that I have ever read on the issue of suffering; if not the best, it is certainly equal to C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. In this book the author Gerald Sittser describes his own loss and immediately identifies with the reader on a personal level. He describes the loss of his wife, the loss of his mother and the loss of his daughter all of whom met their end in a tragic automobile accident with a drunk driver. From his own experience and out of his own pain, anger and suffering, Jerry Sitter details his own perspectives on the human experience of suffering.
Without the slightest hint of "it will be alright" or "all things happen for a reason" Sittser discusses the way loss can help people to grow and heal through forgiveness (not forgetness) and through being honest about ones experience with themselves and with their God. While reminding the reader that everyone suffers he also acknowledges that everyone's suffering is completely unique. The book is easy to read, uplifting and sorrowful and a must read for everyone in ministry.
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on January 11, 2007
This book was recommended to me by a member of the Taylor University (Upland, IN) community in the wake of the tragedy of Spring 2006 that drew national attention after a senseless highway crash left five members of the college community dead as well as a mistaken identity crisis concerning one of the victims and survivors. Plenty of grief there to go around. I actually read it shortly after my own good friend had died of cancer. The author has known grief in his own family, but rather than focus on just his own story, he tells us about God's faithfulness in grief--not just "what happened" but "how it happens." He offers hope in the midst of unspeakable pain,a way though the dark. I immediately bought ten copies and have already given them away. I will be getting another batch.
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on August 25, 2010
I read this book twice after the passing of two husbands. As a counselor, I am familiar with many books on grief & loss. This book is the best I have read. It helped me to put my loss into perspective and to remember some very positive word pictures that the author gives. I have recommended it to several people who have also found it to be helpful. I keep at least one copy in my own personal library at all times because I value the book so much. I hope the author keeps expanding it and publishing it.
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on January 17, 2007
The most helpful book I have ever read to help a thinking person with devastating loss--be it death, divorce or any life-altering change. The author does not condescend to his readers, nor does he offer simplistic explanations for the human condition. His reflections help those who grieve frame experiences in a way that helps them to heal and to find joy again.
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