Most of us will never experience a deadly plane crash in our lifetime, but Sarah M. Johnson not only survived one at the tender age of nineteen, but was left to manage her shattered life and the business of death on her own.

Sarah M. Johnson’s memoir, Life is Beautiful, chronicles her struggle to find peace and healing after a devastating plane crash in Guatemala killed her father and beloved brother, and left her mother badly burned.

Life is Beautiful by Sarah M. Johnson

I found myself wanting to embrace this girl who had lost so much, like the unnamed Guatemalan woman with the sympathetic eyes did for Sarah on that tragic day.  I wanted to rock her and stroke her hair like her own mother was unable physically or emotionally to do for her.

Sarah’s deep sadness, depression, and loneliness didn’t start the day of the crash. It had already been with her–the tragedy of the crash only exacerbated it. Emotional walls of separation and unhealthy patterns of excess and denial were a normal part of her family life. 

When you aren’t raised to know God, like Sarah; when you aren’t taught that God is the answer to your questions, you grope fitfully searching for something, anything to assuage the constant ache at your center.

Although Sarah was open to a vague “higher power”, nothing but the Living God would be able to lift the heavy veil of depression, self-loathing, and that inner monologue of inadequacy that always plagued her.

Alcohol became her temporary salve.

Without it, the emotions are more intense and there’s nowhere to run and hide, to escape or avoid them. Depression and sorrow are the two most persistent emotions I live with.

-Life is Beautiful 

For me, there was  a pivotal point in Sarah’s story when her prayer changes from “God, please give me the strength to heal myself”, to her genuine cry to God “to be in your warmth, closer to you, and [be] your child”.

 



 

Life is Beautiful goes back and forth between the horrific crash and its aftermath to another story of forgiveness and redemption–her father’s earlier transformation from selfishness to loving leader of his family as he helps his dying sister-in-law in her final days.

Witnessing this change in her father planted the seeds necessary, I believe, for Sarah to later put her faith and trust in her Heavenly Father and want something greater than another drink to drown the pain.Sarah M. Johnson

God is never more than a prayer away, and I feel His love when I seek him out. He is always with us, whether we realize it or not.

-Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful when we hear God’s call. It is God alone who can draw us from the well of despair by offering us hope during our most wretched moments.

Sometimes hope will be embodied in a listening ear, an understanding heart, or a loving touch. But our hope always comes from the same source: the Spirit of Christ.

 I wanted to read more of her budding relationship with Jesus Christ and it wasn’t there. But I also know we don’t grasp the entirety of God’s plan for us on day one of our calling. For Christ said Himself, “No man can come to me except the Father draw him.” John 6:44a

It is God who calls.

Sarah’s life is beautiful because, even through the deafening din of loss and despondency, she heard His call.

 

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest evaluation.

 

 

 

 

Abiding in the Vine,

~ Gleniece 

 

 

 

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The post “Life is Beautiful {a book review}” was first published on Desert Rain.

 

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6 thoughts on “Life is Beautiful {a book review}

  1. Beautiful review, Gleniece! We both had that same desire to reach out and hold this precious girl and a desire to know more about her journey with faith.

    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

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    1. Thank you, dear Lori. Yes, her story tugged at our hearts, didn’t it? I pray for an awakening of God’s true being for her. That would make for a truly beautiful life.

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