A Severe Mercy was written in 1977 and last reprinted in 1987
by HarperOne. Other than the Holy Bible, it remains my all-time
Perhaps selected quotes, together with this story about Gypsy, may provide a concise and accurate review of what A Severe Mercy is really about.
people run away from grief, go on world cruises or move to another
town. But they do not escape. Memories spring into their minds, scattered
perhaps over the years. There is, maybe, something to be said for
facing them all deliberately and straightaway."
I wouldn't have admitted it, even to myself, I didn't want God aboard.
He was too heavy. I wanted Him approving from a considerable distance.
I didn't want to be thinking of Him. I wanted to be freelike
Gypsy. I wanted life itself, the color and fire and loveliness of
life. And Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when
I wanted to. I didn't want us to be swallowed up in God."
best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty,
their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity
is also Christians. When they are somber and joyless, when they are
self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are
narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But,
though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps,
after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity
itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the
positive quality of joy is in Christianity--and possibly nowhere else.
If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order."
had been wont to despise emotions: girls were weak emotions and
tears were weaknesses. But this morning he was thinking that being a
great brain in a tower, nothing but brain, wouldn't be much fun. No
excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue skyno feelings
at all. But feelingsfeelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed
by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the
emotions. What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion?
Courage, at least, is partly emotional. All the splendor of life. But
if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest,
the purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest.
must be read with caution. The history of Christendom is replete with
instances of people who misread the signs."
fundamental dilemma is this: I can't believe in Christ unless I have
faith, but I can't have faith unless I believe in Christ. This is 'the
leap.' If to be a Christian is to have faith (and clearly it is), I
can put it thus: I must accept Christ to become a Christian, but I must
be a Christian to accept him. I don't have faith and I don't as yet
believe; but everyone seems to say: 'You must have faith to believe.'
Where do I get it? Or will you tell me something different? Is there
a proof? Can Reason carry one over the gulf.
who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture
of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the 'real
thing' happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as
someone said, may suppose a hyena's growl to be a lion's; but when he
hears the lion's growl, he knows damn' well it's a lion. So with the
"All our most lovely moments are perhaps timeless."