Finding The Good In Grief: Rediscover Joy After A Life-Changing Loss, by John F. Baggett
[Note: This book was provided by free from Author Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
As someone who has lived through a certain amount of grief and life-changing losses in my few and evil years on this earth, I tend to read books designed for comfort and encouragement in such situations, in the knowledge that as sure as sunset follows sunrise, there will come a time of loss and evil yet to come, given the course of my life thus far. The author of this book speaks with a great deal of credibility, given his own experiences with a particularly difficult kind of loss, that of the loss of the sanity of his then teenaged son to the onset of schizophrenia. Writing this book could not have been an easy process, especially given his painful self-recognition of his naive faith and its failures during that crisis, and for those who have suffered greatly and are at various stages of recovery, this is not an easy book to read either.
Though this is not an easy book to read, it is a worthwhile one. Using composite stories, some of which I can relate to a little too well, Baggett talks about such problems as the death of parents and spouses to cancer or sudden strokes and heart attacks, the divorce of parents, rape, dealing with depression after the suicide of a lover after his being put on trial for statutory rape (!), the death of a child due to drunk driving, and other such trials. To the extent that the reading audience can relate to any or some of these situations, and see the struggles with faith faced by people at every part of the process of grieving, the reader can gain a great deal of healing and comfort in times of suffering.
In my own seasons of grief I have known quite a few of the troubles that the author speaks of, sometimes for brief periods of time and sometimes for very prolonged ones. In an interesting contrast, the author breaks down the familiar five stages of dealing with grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and looks at two different perspectives based on two levels of organization in the book. This book is organized into five parts that deal with the faith that we are to gain from trials: trust God and rely on others, choose reality instead of illusion, resist the temptation to get stuck, recognize moments of grace, and discover new meaning and purpose. These five parts are then broken into eleven chapters on shock, denial, escape, victimism, questioning, anger, depression, acceptance, calling, and affirmation, showing the stages we can get stuck in that are not fruitful (most of which I have seen at some point in myself and others in times of loss and grief and crisis) as well as those responses that are ultimately most fruitful in God bringing good out of the difficulties we see in our lives, as we recognize God’s control and our own responsibility over how we respond to life’s challenges.
To his credit, the author does not shy away from difficult questions or answers, nor from discussing potentially embarrassing aspects of his own life. He neither shies away from asking difficult questions and provoking his reader with difficult scriptural truths, even if some readers may quibble about his facile discussion of the afterlife. For the most part, this is a book about dealing with the occasionally grim matters of life in this present evil world, and it is better for it. The most inspiring part of the book for me (and probably at least a few other readers also) is the way in which the author comments on the way that our griefs and losses can be used to fire our calling against other societal evils in the aim of alleviating the suffering of others or helping in some small way to societal change. The author’s bona fides in his own crusade to improve the abominable state of mental health (as someone who has twice been diagnosed with mental illness, at the age of four with PTSD and with major depression in my mid-twenties, I speak from experience) can serve as an inspiration for many others who have likewise suffered and who desire to give meaning to their suffering so that we do not suffer in vain. To say that the book is full of useful Bible quotes and occasional commentary is an obvious truism but deserves to be mentioned nonetheless, for the sake of completeness.
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