Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Grief to Grace

God often sends me the right book at the right time, even before I realize my own need. I opened Jeannie Ewing's From Grief to Grace at a moment when the sky seemed to be falling in on me. Sometimes, especially after we have already suffered greatly, we think that God owes us a "happily ever after" for good behavior. The idea of suffering, especially when we are already in pain, is overwhelming and our human nature rebels at the thought. Jeannie gives practical and profound advice on how to face trials in a Christian manner in those very moments when we want to fall into an abyss of self-pity. To quote from the Sophia Institute Press website:
Grief touches all of our lives, but it does not have to paralyze us with fear or inaction. God allows suffering because He knows how powerful it can be to our spiritual lives and to helping us fully embrace His love and mercy. In this insightful and practical book, you’ll learn how to live a life of redemptive suffering that will draw you through grief into a state of tenacity, meaning, holiness, and joy.

Author Jeannie Ewing is no stranger to suffering. Her family has long struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, and her baby daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder that caused her bones to prematurely fuse together. Despite the many layers of sadness, loss, confusion, and anger, Jeannie responded to God’s calling and transformed her life into one with profound purpose and joy. Combining her training in psychology and counseling with real-life examples, Jeannie will show you that there is much life to be lived in the midst of loss, and that all things – even the most painful life experiences – are working together for a greater good. (Read more.)
Jeannie explores the nature of clinical depression and other organic illnesses that can be part of one's spiritual suffering. She quotes extensively from the writings of the saints, including Saint John of the Cross, who wrote of the dark night of the soul. In the words of the author:
When a person enters the dark night, it is an arduous path to Heaven, at least for a time. Grief very much feels this way: that our thoughts, our emotions, our very livelihood are encapsulated in darkness. This makes traversing through that darkness cumbersome and painful, but fidelity to God in the midst of such spiritual fog enables us to persevere through the trials of suffering. We merely need to begin with a desire for the 'labor necessary for the struggle.' (p.101)
The most beautiful part of the book is being introduced to Jeannie's daughter Sarah, born with a rare genetic disorder, which initially produced reactions of shock and grief in her parents. However, it gradually becomes clear that Sarah, with her sweet and determined nature, all her little ways, including her very being, is a gift and a grace. A situation that to human eyes was darkness turned out to be great light.


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