A terrible tragedy engulfed a religion professor at Whitworth College. Gerald Sittser lost his wife, mother and four-year-old daughter in a single car accident. One by one, by the side of the road they died in his arms. Following the accident Sittser chronicled the emptiness of his life. With candor and matter of fact clarity he recalls the despair that threatened to overwhelm him but, amazingly, never did. He survived because he believed in the ancient Christian doctrine of grace. He believed in grace because he lived it. And he named the book he later wrote, A Grace Disguised.
He writes, ". . . [T]hough I experienced death, I also experienced life in ways that I never thought possible before, not after the darkness, as we might suppose, but in the darkness. I did not go through the pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. 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. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it."
Sometimes when I’m reading a particularly profound devotion, I experience what I call a wow moment, and this surely is one of my wows. To repeat: “Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.” Grace--this is such a cardinal tenet to our faith and we miss it, especially in times that tear our insides to pieces that only a loving Father can restore to a wholeness again. This dear man lost mother, wife and daughter. I thought of Job and the messenger who brought him the news that all his children had died together, gone, just like that.
So where was God while Dr. Sittser cradled his beloveds in his arms? God was right where He was when His Son died! I didn’t understand the profoundness of this until the night we heard our son scream and then shoot himself to death. I do believe that what got me through the moments, minutes, hours, days and weeks afterwards was the absolute belief that our Father was there with us through it all. And I believed that God would give us the courage (yes--courage!) to crawl through this valley, and walk and run again (Isaiah 40:29-31). I hope this doesn’t sound blasphemous, but God depends on us as much as we depend on Him.
Gerald Sittser concludes in his book:
"To live in a world with grace is better by far than to live in a world of absolute fairness. A fair world may make life nice for us, but only as nice as we are. A world with grace will give us more than we deserve. It will give us life, even in our suffering."
Thank you, Dr. Sittser, for reaching beyond unfathomable grief and sharing with us your inspiring words. We are forever grateful to you.
"See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10).