Suffering and loss are inevitable, but I don’t know if I understood that when I was younger. My wife’s breast cancer and the trials of adoption have pressed suffering upon me in ways that I have never felt before. Shortly after Heather was diagnosed with cancer, I tried to find books of comfort, writings to help explain what was going on in my life. The Psalms took on a new richness for me, but other books varied.
In the last few years, I haven’t read many books dealing with suffering or loss, but as I was looking over my bookshelf at home, I happened across a little book by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss. I had previously read another of Sittser’s books and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t prepared for this book.
A Grace Disguised is, in a word, stunning. Based in his own experience of profound loss—his mother, wife, and daughter were all killed by a drunk driver—Sittser explores loss of a gut-wrenching level. When I began reading, I told my wife that with each page, I was on the verge of tears. The book opens like this: “Catastrophic loss wreaks destruction like a massive flood. It is unrelenting, unforgiving, and uncontrollable, brutally erosive to body, mind, and spirit.” The author never shied away from the many ways in which this loss affected him.
Though every page carried its own value, his chapter on forgiveness is phenomenal. My master’s thesis dealt with forgiveness and oh that I had this book then. From here on out, when anyone is looking for readings about forgiveness, this will be the book I recommend. Sittser’s understanding of forgiveness, crafted not in an ivory tower, but in the fires of loss.
A Grace Disguised is one of the most beautiful, painful, and engaging books I have ever read. I read a lot of books and this is a book that will get my highest endorsement. If you are someone who has experienced tragedy, loss, or suffering, I cannot recommend another book as strongly as I recommend A Grace Disguised.