Finding the Good in Grief by John F. Baggett
This new book entitled Finding the Good in Grief, by pastor and counselor Dr. John F. Baggett is a very good look into the way grief affects individuals while also providing hope for those going through the grief process. In the beginning of the book, John is quick to note that, “It is a mistake to believe grief can be avoided if we have enough strength of character or enough faith” (11). Grief is a normal experience that most people go through and is integral to growing spiritually and emotionally. This reality hit home for John when his teenage son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Going through the stages of grief was overwhelming for John , but he soon realized that grief was not his own lot, for his family and friends were feeling the painful loss also (10). John outlines at the end of the first chapter the five steps that he plans to write about in the book: 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 (13).
This book is really good at capturing the way the stages of grief can often turn into paralyzing activities. In the chapter on denial, John writes, “Denial is seductive because for a while it feels so much better than going through what we suspect will be unbearable pain. Denial is insidious because self-deceit is so difficult to recognize. How easily we recognize the denial of others, and how difficult it is to see our own” (35)! People will go to great measures to cover up a wound with temporary bandages or deny that a loss has taken place. This kind of denial is powerful, because like John mentions, we deceive ourselves into thinking that the longer we put off dealing with the pain, the easier it will be in the long run. John is right also to parallel denial and loss with denial and marital or addiction issues. Denial is a long term recipe for disaster because it fails to reckon with the reality of the situation, and situations such as addiction or marital strife only deteriorate if left undealt with. I thought it was powerful how John led us back to the truth that God is a God of truth and calls us to honest and forthright with our situations no matter what they are (37). Furthermore, God is not willing to leave us be but enters into our pain and brings His truth to bear on our painful condition.
In the section on depression, John points the reader to an illuminating point in writing, “When we fall into despair, the help we need might come to us through the Scriptures, through a sermon, during a time of prayer, or in some other moment when we have opened our inner selves to God’s healing. Or it might come from a spiritual counselor or a person of faith who is a good friend…” (98-99). God is able to use his Word and his servants to speak truth into the lives of those dealing with depression not to shake them out of their stupor but to lift their eyes to Him who will bring them through their suffering. What I also liked about his chapter was John’s insistence to include a community of believers helping each other in times of depression. Going through times of depression can easily push someone to cut off communication with others and go the lone road, yet this action has its own negative consequences. Taking part in the life of someone dealing with depression goes a long way in their healing process, even if it means being an empathetic listener.
The only major criticism of the book is that at times it weighed heavily on the stories of people dealing with great loss and not as much on the Scriptures. I think a more balanced approach of providing more overarching examples of biblical persons dealing with issues of anger, depression, and acceptance would be a great help for people. The stories did not take away from the message of the chapter but could be tempered by more biblical insights.
This book was a good dive into the stages of grief and how God calls us to see his hand through the tough times. I was greatly encouraged and edified in reading this book.
Thanks to Kregel Publications for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for review.