kathleen Moloney-Tarr

spiritual Director | Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation

In The Tragedy Test, Rich Agler offers a wise rabbi’s voice with honesty and frankness about what it is to lose a beloved daughter, move through the grief of tragic loss, examine the nature of God and renew faith through acceptance.

The three sections of the book, Challenge, Response and Acceptance, invite the reader to walk with him as he unpacks the cliché responses friends and family offer to the bereaved.  He explores how comments such as “ Everything works out for the best,” or “ She is with God,” call the question on the nature of God.  He gently, steadily leads the reader forward and deeper just as he had to move in order to heal. 

Rich Agler writes with the wisdom of a rabbi, heart of a parent, and the curiosity of a seeker.  The reader is led through the challenges of how tragedy shifts one’s understandings of God and faith.  He asks the tough questions and makes a compelling case for acceptance of accidents through the reality of natural laws of gravity and science without losing faith.  He honors the goodness, love, kindness and caring that we each can bring to our relationships and the wider world, thus living out God’s gifts of life and our own gratitude for it.  

This book is personal, insightful, and helpful to anyone grieving or to those who support others through tragedy.  Spiritual directors who sit with individuals struggling with unbearable loss have in this book a clear, reflective guidebook to share with directees.  Hospice workers who support families dealing with untimely death of a loved one may find support here. This book is not therapy; it is a spiritual roadmap for spiritual healing. The book is short and each chapter is only as long as it needs to be, often less than a page.  The white space on the page gives the reader space to consider, make notes or let the wisdom filter into their own experience. 

The Tragedy Test traces a realistic journey from crippling pain to healing.  Exploring the God of Law and Spirit, following the Six-Step Program, emphasizing God’s goodness, love and charity in our prayers and answering the question “Where are you right now in your journey of life?” are part of the encouraging and life-affirming roadmap to be found in The Tragedy Test.