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REVIEW of The God of All Comfort: THE LAMENT

lamentWhether you have been going through The God of All Comfort with us from the beginning or joined us somewhere along the way, there is great value in review. If you have friends in fresh pain, invite them to join in — if not as participants, as readers. We’ll spend a few weeks in review.

Two questions prevail in the midst of suffering. “Why did this happen?” And, “How can I possibly get through this?” For the most part, The God of All Comfort addresses the second. You are in enormous pain. How will you make it?

We began with learning how to lament, as God gives us permission to do. This drawing by Andrew Dunn illustrates the grief we feel, the darkness and birds of prey around us, yet also the promise of rising hope. You can make it through the river of grief, and the lament is the tool God gives you to help you.

The most important thing to remember is that Satan wants you to back up from God, who is your only hope. The lament helps you not to back up.

1. Articulate what you have learned about the value of the lament, either from The God of All Comfort or the psalms themselves.

2.  Do you remember the most common metaphor the psalmist uses for how he feels? (If not, you can find it in Psalm 18:4-5; Psalm 42:7 and in many of the hymns we have studied. Our closing hymn, What Wondrous Love, has it as well.) How does the fact that God understands this feeling help you?

3.  A lament classically has three parts — the lament, the turn, and the remembrance of God’s character. Give an example from the psalms, or even from your own prayer journal.

4.  There are also times when there is no turn, as in Heman’s Cry of Darkness in Psalm 88. How does he close his psalm? What does it mean to you that we can be free to be this honest with God?

5.  How did Jesus lament on the cross?

6 Comment on a lamenting song like Blessed Be Thy Name or Come Lift Up Your Sorrows or one we’ve studied.

7. Are you incorporating the lament more into your prayer life? If so, how?

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30 comments

  1. I have been reading through the review chapter in the book, and it is a wonderful idea to go back and start at the beginning and review all we have learned on this journey. I think that is the only way to get these truths into our hearts, by going back again and again so we can remember. Most Bible studies I have been in do not end with a review, so I think this is great!

  2. Hello Dear Ones,
    I’ve been one of the “background” women-in-pain for the last couple weeks. I’m not able to talk about what has been happening yet. Just know that I’ve been reading and praying for everyone. I feel badly that I haven’t been able to contribute, but by God’s grace I will be able to reach out soon!

    1. I will be praying for you Marlys. Thanks for letting us know.

    2. I’m praying for you, too, Marlys. Glad you posted.

      1. Thinking about you and praying for you tonite, Marlys.

  3. 1. I love the lament. It helps me put a face on my pain. What I tend to do it try to muddle through pain and not complain. I try to ‘have faith’. The result is that I am totally out of touch with my own thoughts and resulting feelings. But the thing I love the most is that God answers me. After I posted yesterday I realized that it was a lament of sorts. I quoted Hebrews 11:1 when it came to my mind and instantly felt better. I know that God heard and answered me with scripture.

  4. 2.Drowning is the most common metaphor the psalmist uses for how he feels. How does the fact that God understands this feeling help you? In the mentioned song it is implied that this sinking feeling is the result of God’s frown. On the cross the anguish that Jesus suffered as He cried out was because God had turned His face away from Him. Because of Jesus sacrifice on the cross God will never turn His face away from me so I know that I will never really drown like this. So why do I feel this way so often? I think it is because I have believed the accuser’s lies that God has turned away from me, that He could not possibly love me, that I am alone and He will not rescue me.

    1. Well said Anne…thank you.

  5. I am so thankful that we will be spending some time reviewing. God is good, and His timing is perfect. He has used this study to not only help me deal with past/current grief, but to help prepare me. I know that I haven’t posted as much recently because I’ve gotten “too busy” (i.e., distracted by or out of town with work). Once again I’m reminded of what and, more importantly, Who is most important as death interrupts my busyness. I spent the day getting out of commitments for a few days so that I can travel to a family funeral. Those work commitments don’t seem as important right now — and I’m longing to dig deeply into this study again.

  6. 1. Articulate what you have learned about the value of the lament.

    I’ve been keeping a notebook for this study, writing down the answers to the questions, Scriptures, and thoughts from all of you, too. So tonite I turned the pages back to the ones about lament, and found that I learned how to lament to God about losing my nephew. The lament can be a complaint, or pouring out my sorrow to God. It can be long, as the pages I filled lamenting Thomas’ death, or two words I spoke out loud recently to God as I lay in bed awake one night, “God, I’m scared.”
    I learned from some of the Psalms of lament that after talking to God about my sorrow or fear, I can move to the next part, which is remembering God’s character, His love for me, and how He has helped me in the past.
    Looking back at those earlier pages, after writing out my lament, I had left the third part blank, which was to be my request, or resolve.
    Tonite, I filled it in:

    When I am laid so low, God,
    with sorrow
    Or when I am afraid,
    I will call to You.
    You will cover me like
    a shield,
    Cover my defenseless head.
    I will rest in the shadow of
    Your wing.

    I learned that using the Psalms to help me lament allows God to dialogue with me. Most important of all, is that lamenting keeps me talking to God.

  7. 2. Do you remember the most common metaphor the psalmist uses for how he feels?

    It is the metaphor of drowning, and being helpless, bound with cords, trapped, waves crashing over him.
    I know God just doesn’t understand how I feel, but He has really been there. I’ve read that death on the Cross was like suffocating, not being able to take in a breath. So Jesus felt this for real, and He put Himself in a helpless position.
    That’s a truth I need to speak to my soul when I hurt. Jesus really, really knows how it feels and He knows because for love of me He went through that.

    1. Wow, Susan. Excellent responses. Thanks for sharing your notebook with us—so encouraging to me right now when I’ve “run out of steam.”

  8. 3.A lament classically has three parts – the lament, the turn, and the remembrance of God’s character. Give an example from the psalms or from your own prayer journal.

    Looking back to when we studied Psalm 30, my lament for several days was that I could not identify with this Psalm because of where I was in my grief. I wrote:

    “I read, and re-read, this Psalm. Truly nothing “spoke” to me. I am disappointed. I can’t identify with the psalmist’s joy.
    I would be happy with just a spirit of contentment.”

    “I am working through the Psalm today. This joy, and praise, and gratefulness to God will never happen if I don’t take my eyes off of my circumstances and focus instead on God.”

    The “turn” came when I took to heart Dee’s advice that there is power in praising, even when we don’t feel like it, because it interrupts our self-preoccupation. I didn’t want to, but I did it, and that is when the psalm opened up to me, and God had something special for me in this psalm.

  9. I just learned that one of my dearest friends, who has mentored me for many years, lost her precious husband to lung cancer today. I saw Sue in Walmart not long ago, she was beaming as she shared a scripture with me that she and Jim had found and believed was encouragement that Jim would be healed. Please pray for her, their three adult children, spouses and grands. They are all believers.

  10. 4. How does Heman close his psalm? (Psalm 88)

    He closes with phrases like “O Lord, I have cried out to You for help”
    “Why do You reject my soul?” “Why do You hide Your face from me?”
    “Your terrors have destroyed me. They have surrounded me like water…they have encompassed me altogether.”

    He says God has removed “lover and friend far from me; my acquaintances are in darkness.”
    This is a desperate, sad ending, to feel that darkness is your closest friend.

    What does it mean to you that we can be free to be this honest with God?

    Well, I only have one very close Christian friend that I can truly tell her anything, even my most ugly, selfish thoughts, and it is a relief to be able to be real with someone and know that they wont turn away from you.
    I think so much of the time we wear a “nice mask”, or we are afraid to even tell our Christian friends that sometimes we have doubts about our faith and is all this really true? It makes sense to me that since God already knows what I’m thinking, that I might as well tell Him the truth and not try to hide anything from Him, even if it’s really raw and ugly, or when I feel totally hopeless like Heman. I know He’ll never turn away. I think ever since ADam and Eve we’ve been “hiding” who we really are. The older I get, the more tired I get of that game! And with God, I don’t have to be “people pleaser”.
    It’s freeing, it brings relief, to be unmasked before God.

  11. Please pray for me. I’ve been sick off and on for most of the past month. Though I’ve taken some time off, I probably haven’t slowed down enough. Now with a death in the family, grief, and arranging to go to a funeral — and health still not back to normal, I’m very aware of how totally dependent I am on God’s grace for day to day functioning (Too bad I’m often not more aware of that daily ALL THE TIME).

    1. Lord please give Renee Your strength to face the burdens of her days. Thank You for her honesty and for the times she has encouraged and refreshed my spirit. Amen.

  12. I found this when I was looking for the songs. I’m still watching it and it is very good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr3mNGtxd-I

  13. 3. My lament is so complicated. There are so many areas of my life of failure. Some I have shared, many I have not and I don’t think it is necessary now. I think we are all going through some very deep waters. The turn for me is in accepting my own failure and letting all the excuses and defenses fall away. I am before God as I truly am and the glorious thing is that He still loves me.

    The yard is so beautiful this morning. At 7am I took my Bible, coffee and the dog and sat out there for my daily reading which happened to be Ruth. There God called to the deep places in my sad heart when I saw how He provided for them when they were so low. Without the pain the rescue would never be so sweet. I know that He will also rescue me.

    I also saw something I have not noticed before about Rachel and Leah. That was such a dysfunctional family and both women endured so much pain. Leah desired the love of her husband more than anything and she just could not get it. This is evident in the names she chose for her children. But when she got to the last one, Judah, she said ‘This time I will praise the Lord’. She was able to be satisfied in the Lord. Rachel had the love of her husband but could not conceive a child. There was so much conflict because each had the blessing that the other most desired. Not the best situation for 2 sisters sharing the same husband. The thing that really spoke to me was in Ruth 4:11-12. The elders blessed Ruth by asking that she be like Rachel and Leah ‘who built the house of Israel’. Out of all of that dysfunction God built the house of Israel through them. In this I find much hope for us my sisters.

    1. I think I didn’t do all of the question. The turn seems to be when I decide, will I turn toward God or away from Him. The remembrance came from Him as He revealed to me the things that He had done. In this I find the comfort of His presence and realize that I don’t really want any of the things I think I need for rescue. All I really want is His Presence.

  14. 4. There are also times when there is no turn, as in Heman’s Cry of Darkness in Psalm 88. How does he close his psalm? What does it mean to you that we can be free to be this honest with God?

    Is the turn when God replies to him? This one closes with Heman still in lament. He is still in darkness because he has not yet come into the Lord’s presence. Job also spent much time in his suffering before the Lord came to him.

    Heman was affected in every part of his life. In verse 7 he feels God’s wrath and fears dying in that state. He is alone and repulsive to friends and loved ones. He cries all the time and may be to the point of mental illness due to depression. He is also physically ill and has been all of his life. Terrors surround him like water (there is that metaphor again). This sounds a lot like I picture hell. God does not seem to be there at all and he has no sense that God is even listening.

    I have learned that it means everything to me to be able to be this honest with God. When I lament to Him, He has reassured me of His presence every time so far. This is what Heman had not yet experienced.

    5. How did Jesus lament on the cross?
    He lamented when God turned His face away from Him as He bore in himself our sin. He cried out My God, My God. Why have You forsaken Me? This was a cry of great pain. Jesus had never been out of God’s presence. God did not rescue Him until after He spent 3 days in hell, but He did rescue Him in the resurrection! Psalm 88 seems in many ways a picture of Christ’s lament from the cross.

    I have a thought, please let me know if you think it is off the wall. It seems like all references to water in the Psalms are in relation to suffering and death. I have noticed that Revelation says that in the new heaven and the new earth there will be no seas, only the river of life flowing out from the throne of God. Only living water…the presence of God?

      1. Yes, I see what you mean. That is funny about the big gold gymnasium. I agree that however heaven looks, it will be good. I think it is like everything else about God, we can’t imagine because of our limited understanding, so we won’t know until we get there. Once again, we must trust.

  15. Thank you for praying sister’s. I was so blessed when my dear friend, Sue, who lost her husband on Monday, posted that she loved the song “It is well.” The funeral was today. As I lament, I now allow the music and words to sooth my soul like a balm and I turn quickly to the Lord to care for me. Today, when they sang the praise and worship songs the sweet Spirit of the Lord came down on the congregation like a warm blanket encompassing us in God’s love. It was so real and precious.
    I look back on the way I previously dealt with grief- got through the best I knew how, and compare it to my new understanding and am so thankful.
    I look forward to ministering to my friend, sitting shiva and sharing Dee’s book.

    1. Lord, Thank you for ministering in such a warm and real way in this time of loss and for the understanding You have given Kim. Thank you that You and the things learned in this study will be with Kim as she continues to minister. May the things we have learned be shared in each of our lives, rippling out to those around us. Lord, You are so good.

      1. Thank you, Anne. I hope I can pay her back, in part for all the mentoring she has done for me.