Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Christian Struggle with Suffering, Grief, and Hope
“Bible scholar Christian Brady, an expert on Old Testament lament, was as prepared as a person could be for the death of a child—which is to say, not nearly well enough. When his eight-year-old son died suddenly from a fast-moving blood infection, Brady heard the typical platitudes about accepting God’s will and knew that quiet acceptance was not the only godly way to grieve.
With deep faith, knowledge of Scripture, and the wisdom that comes only from experience, Brady guides readers grieving losses and setbacks of all kinds in voicing their lament to God, reflecting on the nature of human existence, and persevering in hope. Brady finds that rather than an image of God managing every event and action in our lives, the biblical account describes the very real world in which we all live, a world full of hardship and calamity that often comes unbidden and unmerited. Yet, it also is a world into which God lovingly intrudes to bring comfort, peace, and grace.”
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Advanced Praise for Beautiful and Terrible Things
“Brady’s witness is to the costly process of grief and the prospect of faith that will not alleviate but will carry us through that cost. This book will serve well those who face such anguished loss. Beyond that, the book is enriched with study questions for those who know that, sooner or later, we will all lose our loved ones and will be summoned to such grief.”
—Walter Brueggemann author of Sabbath as Resistance
“When Christian Brady and his wife experienced the unthinkable, the sudden and unexpected death of their young son, waves of grief surged from this tragedy. Because Brady is both a parent and also a biblical scholar, the grief that welled up from his heart was accompanied by questions in his mind—questions of the nature of God, the meaning of suffering, and the promises of Scripture. This tender and powerful volume stands in honest solidarity with all who have suffered loss and in gentle and deep conversation with all whose loss has provoked questions of faith.”
—Thomas G. Long, author of What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith
“When was the last time you had a man of the cloth tell you that to be Christian is to be human? That suffering is not the sign of sin, but of grace? “Beautiful and Terrible Things” is that rare letter from such a man, a book that is one part memoir, one part devotional, and all parts honest. Among smart but accessible readings of the books of wisdom, Christian M. M. Brady weaves his own wrenching experience as the bereaved father of an only son taken too soon. In so doing, he reveals a path of faith I recognize: standing, trembling with gratitude, before the Whirlwind of God.”
— Rebecca Gayle Howell, Poetry Editor for Oxford American and the author of two critically-acclaimed collections, American Purgatory and Render/An Apocalypse
“Christian Brady has a written a book that asks many questions—questions both you and I have asked, such as: ‘How it is that the God who created this world could allow so much suffering, not just of those who are gone, but for those of us who remain?’ There are many who need and must process these questions and this book may help. It’s a study of life, suffering and death in this world, a study of uncertainty, tragedy and personal loss, but it’s also a proclamation of Hope, which at it’s conclusion brings needful reassurance!”
— Phil Keaggy, award winning guitarist, musician, and performer
“Out of the inexpressibly painful loss of his son Mack, Christian Brady leads us along the seemingly parallel paths of suffering and grace, and shares with us, from his own deep sorrow and profound Christian faith, that the two paths are really one, and despair and hope are fellow travelers.” — C. Hassell Bullock, Franklin S. Dyrness Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College (IL)
“There have been a lot of books written on the problem of theodicy. It’s a question that has haunted people of faith for millennia: how can God, who loves, allow horrors like the deaths of our children when their lives have scarcely begun? This book is the best treatment of the topic, theologically, yet written.
I don’t wish to simply recommend this book. Instead, I urge your reading of it. And your sharing of it with those in your world, your circle of friends, your family, who have been or are suffering loss. And keep a box of kleenex close at hand while you read it yourself. You’ll need it. I did.”
— Jim West, “Zwinglius Redivivus”
From Library Journal, August 1, 2020:
The burden of suffering is often met with attempts to ameliorate it, or as attempts find some greater meaning. Yet, what if the wound is beyond any repair and any meaning gleaned leaves the sufferer worse for the bargain? Brady (Lewis Honor Coll., Univ. of Kentucky; The Rabbinical Targum of Lamentations), however, provides an example of living hopefully in the face of suffering from the struggle he himself carries in the tragic death of his young son. Brady observes that we sojourn in a world that is both wondrous and a vale of tears for which scripture does not settle on a single explanation. In exploring books such as Job and Ecclesiastes, Brady contends that confronting life (and God) while living in hope is what carries us through. This dual affirmation puts Brady in the same company as C. S. Lewis and Nicholas Wolterstorff. As a meditation, each chapter ends with a prayer called a collect, either of his own composition or from the Book of Common Prayer. VERDICT Brady’s sensitivity to his grief and his varied background provides something for a wide audience. The book is both intensely personal and clear-eyed, unflinching yet hopeful. —James Wetherbee, Wingate Univ. Libs., NC