Christian consolation for troubled souls: a dozen snappy, unsanctimonious sermonettes delivering the usual message with unusual candor and realism. Smedes teaches theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, a great Evangelical bastion in Southern California, and his book reflects the moderate Calvinism not just of Fuller but of mainstream American Protestantism. In the fact of personal grief or large-scale disaster, Smedes argues that faith alone can give satisfying answers. And faith is ultimately rooted in the ineffable (but experiential) fact of being chosen: ""I believe because God's grace grabbed me and grabs me still in the deepest depths of my life, and will not let me go."" By responding to this embrace, Smedes tells us, he's managed to find joy despite everything (loss of a child, death of a close friend, and other tragedies, major and minor). The obvious danger here is privatization, the reduction of Christianity to a therapeutic tool, but Smedes avoids it. He never claims that faith is an emotional tonic, and he doesn't pretend that peace of mind removes social injustice. He steers clear of pious platitudes (""Let's have no crap either about suffering being nice after all because it makes us saints""), and admits the self-centeredness of most pain (worry over his wife's breast cancer deadens his pity for starving African children). Some of Smedes' anecdotes and illustrations (from Cervantes and Nietzsche, for example) miss the mark; but for the most part his casual, colloquial style proves to be a surprisingly good vehicle for some very serious business. Solid popular fare.