When I lived in Seattle, the church I attended ran small groups where several people would share their life stories and allow other group members and leaders to speak into their stories and bring the gospel into their lives. Through this process, many people, including me, found freedom from their past and finally saw the gospel come to play in the sins that they had committed or sins that had been committed against them. Redemption groups happen all around the country now, but stories of redemption aren’t limited to this context- Grace Revealed is a testament to the power of God’s grace in the lives of everyday individuals.
Grace Revealed is organized into 6 sections telling the stories of people who found God’s grace in physical, sexual or emotional abuse, addictions, emotional and physical issues, career-related challenges, family issues and loss. Each section contains 2-4 stories that the author has compiled, his notes on the story, as well as a space for personal reflection and application.
I love hearing testimonies because, on some deep level,
In the second chapter, we hear the story of Teresa, a woman from Arkansas who survived sexual abuse as a child, and finally found healing 40 years later. In chapter three, you’ll hear the story of Coss, the founder of Con-Body who went to prison on drug charges and eventually found Jesus while incarcerated.
The stories are powerful and meant to minister to people who are in tough situations, but the way the book is laid out makes it hard to wade through.
While the content of the book is really encouraging, the editor did a poor job organizing the content. Within the first chapter, the author is extremely repetitive in his writing, making reading arduous and boring. He knows what he’s trying to communicate, but he fails to do so in an engaging way.
In the second chapter, Mary DeMuth is featured, but her story doesn’t go into much depth, rather reading like it was lifted from a blog post. Stories later in the chapter are much meatier, but the editor pushed them further into the book, failing to capture attention. If this scares anyone away, they should be aware that there is much better content in the book, it’s just buried.
Furthermore, the book feels like it’s part of a group study- the beginning feeling very lecture related, like there should be someone who is guiding you through these stories and pointing out lessons, instead of letting you find them for yourself.
Because the book is compiled, it also seems more open-ended rather than reaching conclusions. A few areas were more difficult to read in that regards:
“I know God is real, but I have always questioned why He allows children to be abused by their family members or others. My answer to this love problem came through prayer and counseling by my current pastor.” -Page 28
“I know now that God does not cause all things to happen in our lives. But as His Word says, no matter what happens, if we give it to Jesus, He will take what seems very bad to us and turn it to His good for His purpose.” -Page 40
Gathering from a diverse crowd, I wouldn’t expect the theology of Grace Revealed to be cohesive, but the stories didn’t seem to fit well together, or maybe I just don’t agree with the author’s theology as he curated these stories. Books like, The Scars that Have Shaped Me by Vaneetha Risner seem to have a much deeper understanding of the theology of suffering and how grace meets us in our pain, without sacrificing for the sake of telling many stories.
I wouldn’t say Grace Revealed is a waste of time, but maybe for a more discerning reader.
About the author:
Fred Sievert started his career as a teacher, later entered the insurance business, and retired in 2007 as president of New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 corporation. Following his retirement at age fifty-nine, Fred attended Yale Divinity School and was awarded a master’s degree in 2011.