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Essential Reading for Counselors and Pastors
on April 20, 2005
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.
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.