In his book, A Grace Disguised, How the Soul Grows Through Loss, Gerald Sittser describes how his journey through the pains of losing half of his family in a car accident led to a growth of his soul that now mixes deep laughter with his continuing deep pain. Here is how he describes the unfolding of grace in the darkness:

Gradually I was struck by how wonderful ordinary life is. Simply being alive became holy to me. As I saw myself chatting with a student on the way to class, or tucking one of my children to bed, I sensed I was beholding something sacred. … I was not fully alive to these ordinary moments, but I began to glimpse how profound they were. In other words, though 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 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. I learned, gradually, that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new and different life – a life no worse than before, and sometimes better. ….Gifts of grace come to all of us. But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts. It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can be good—good in a different way than before, but nevertheless good. I will never recover from my loss and I will never get over missing the ones I lost. But I still cherish life—Monica and Todd, my surviving children, and the privilege of raising them, deep friendships, service to my work and my community, moments of worship and quiet reflection, good books to read, summer hobbies. Moreover, I will always want the ones I lost back again. I long for them with all my soul. But I still celebrate the life I have found because they are gone. I have lost, but I have also gained. I lost the world I loved, but I gained a deeper awareness of grace. That grace has enabled me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonders within each moment of Life.”

Let us pray: Lord, help us to open our hearts more deeply to the pleasures of your goodness and grace, so that, being less afraid of the darkness and dangers of life, we may find ourselves more able to both laugh and cry our way through each day in the peace and power of your presence and grace, with and through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen