Newcomer Lynn Marie expressed what many of us felt as grief for atrocities poured through the pages last week, particularly Chris’s terrible story of her beloved Daniel’s death:
How is a small simple human being supposed to put the pieces back together after something like that? Don’t we wonder: “What in the world do you expect from me?” “This is way, way, over my head”…I’m here for a rescue too.
We’re all here for a rescue — Mark Vroegop tells us the first step in facing grief of any kind is “the turn.” For, he says, “to cry is human, but to lament is Christian.”
Satan’s strategy isn’t so much to make us miserable, but to make us back away from God, for then we throw away our lifeline. Satan HATES it when we make the turn to God. Mary wrote:
The only thing He can’t heal in us is when we won’t let Him. As long as we keep turning to Him, He can work with us and ultimately, through us.
Many of you are familiar with the term “stonewalling” in marriage. Counselor Gottman says that portends real danger — when the couple isn’t fighting anymore, for they have simply given up and put up a wall. As that is dangerous in marriage, so it is in our relationship with God.
That’s what Satan urges us to do, slithering in when he sees we are wounded and whispering: “You see, God doesn’t love you!” The way to defeat Satan is to avoid the wall and turn to God.
J. B. Phillips paraphrases John 6:37 as
“I will never refuse anyone who comes to me.”
Many of you, who were hesitant about studying the lament, realized you had already practiced it, for, in your grief, your natural response was to turn to God — with questions, with complaints, with sorrow. Sharon wrote:
A month after our son died I was driving home from work and as I neared our home all my emotions just broke loose. I ran into the house and into his empty bedroom where only a box that his little life was all packed in and fell beside it. I began throwing things out of that box screaming “Why God, what did I do to deserve this?” I realized that I lamented my son’s death and didn’t even know that’s what I was doing.
We are off to a good start, we are all here for a rescue, and the first step is the turn. There’s a fair amount of reading so feel free to get a head start on Monday today if you can. And if you get behind, don’t give up. Just pick up where you left off. Satan is not going to win this one.
Highlights from Last Week
Honestly, there were so many I’m afraid to start — love both having all our newcomers — and also how our oldtimers reached out to them! So much wisdom here — I’ll limit myself to a few comments on how to help friends in grief, something we all need to get better at.
Lynn painted a picture of why people back away from those in grief — it’s like running away from a falling piano. (I liked this because it helps me give grace when people aren’t there for me or point out the silver lining instead of grieving with me.)
Ernema (Bing) reminded us of this good definition of “Sitting Shiva;” To mindfully mourn and not breeze past the grief and sorrow.
Chris, who may have suffered the deepest wound I can imagine on earth, said that even she, though she knows better, may try to fix a friend’s grief instead of just sitting and weeping — though that is exactly what helped her the most. I have done the same, though I too know better — so it helps me have grace when others do it.
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday: To Lament is Christian
2. Read Chapter 1 through the section “What is Lament?”
A. What is a lament?
B. what makes a lament Christian?
C. Pastor Mark describes setting a chair in the middle and a woman coming up to lament their infertility. Pastor Mark says he does this because he has seen the difference between those who learn to lament and those who don’t. Why do you think this is?
D. What else stands out to you from this section?
Tuesday: The Pattern & Practice of Lament
3. Read The Pattern of Lament. What are the four parts of a lament?
You don’t need to lose a child, go through divorce, or get a terminal diagnosis to lament. Every day, Jesus says, has trouble. We are going to practice this with smaller troubles — particularly relationship troubles.
Last week Jill wrote about a problem we all face fairly often: I get swept up in pleading for change in people being hurtful that I have a difficult time discerning what I should do! Is there something to be said or done that would change what is happening? If not, then how to listen to my True Identity to guide my actions … but then I am afraid this will incite more hurt…. the final question is, can I really endure more?
I am seeing that the lament can really help us stay in the light with situations just like Jill described. It happened to me last week. I have a new Christian neighbor who is very nice. I’ve been pretty excited to know that a Christian family is moving in. She told me right away she was going to cut down some trees to improve her view of the lake, and I gave her permission to cut down a few of mine. What I didn’t expect was for practically the whole woods between us to come down, and I am grieving. I had thought, erroneously, that just the trees taped with yellow were coming down, but those were the only ones that were staying. I believe it was an honest misunderstanding, but still, I’m sad.
A. Turn: I’m turning to God because what I tend to do when I’m upset with someone is to go over why they are wrong and I am right — building my case. Then I am tempted to revert to my old side-ways comments that destroy relationships. I want to truly repent of that habit and turn to God instead.
B. Complaint. Oh Lord – Your cedars! Growing for hundreds of years — we have loved them so: their beauty, their shade, their privacy shield. The children have played in them. Now it feels like an open scar. I am sad and, I admit, a bit angry.
C. Ask: Help me see my part. Help me know how to walk in the light.
I know part of this is my fault — for not being braver and asking more questions. I know You have given me grace, and I am to do the same. I know my idol of control can regenerate and I can say manipulative things. I need your help. I also need wisdom for what I might do to restore some privacy and shade, yet walk in love. If she asks me how I feel about it and I speak the truth, won’t that be hurtful? But if I don’t, won’t that be dishonest? Please guide my thoughts and melt my heart. Help me not destroy this relationship, as I so easily could do in my sin.
D. Trust: I will wait on you. I will not break down bridges with my neighbor. I will wait on You for wisdom. Give me mercy and love for her, as You have given to me.
What has happened since! The Lord did help me be silent, with a little urging to do so from my youngest daughter. She reminded me “Clear is kind.” (Sideways comments are not.) I decided to say nothing unless my neighbor approached me, for it is done. Two days ago we shouted greetings to each other as I was taking a swim. Then yesterday she and her husband came over and offered to plant a shade tree near my porch. Insisted, really. They also are thinking about getting a raft we could share. Even she was surprised at how big a change came and they may be planting some trees. I was able to tell her the view from the other side of the house of the water is better. And just this morning as I sat on my deck, I was better able to see the sky grow pink in the northwest. Things are good, I have peace, and am thankful for the lament for it helped give me perspective and control over my sin nature and old manipulative ways.
I know that my particular problem was helped by the fact that my neighbor is a Christian — and that is often not the case. Yet still, I think God can help us resist sin in these harder cases.
4. Your turn:
Wednesday: Psalms of Lament
Prepare your heart, if you like, with this:
5. Read Psalms of Lament.
A. Since 1/3 of the psalms are laments, why do you think we have so few hymns or worship
songs of lament? (Last week Newcomer Lynne commented on how there really isn’t a lament
in “It is Well With My Soul.” I had missed that and I think there should have been. Thoughts?)
B. Can you think of a hymn or song of lament that you love? If so, share it here. (If you give a
link, I may need to approve you — but I’ll try to be alert!) This is one I sing almost every day – I
it’s in a minor key and expresses the desperation I often feel when facing life.
6. Read Psalm 77 and identify, with verse references, the 4 parts of a Lament.
7. Read Psalm 77 Keep Praying through Pray Your Struggles
A. Why is the danger of not lamenting? What did you learn from James Montgomery Boice?
B. In Psalm 77:1-2, how do you see faith glimmering beneath the sorrow?
C. What stands out to you from this section?
Thursday: Prayer Turns Us Around
8. As you reflect on your personal lament from Tuesday, do you see any progress in your heart?
9. Read through Pray Your Questions.
A. What stands out to you?
B. When you read the questions in Psalm 77:7-9, what are your thoughts? Surely the psalmist knew the answers, so why do you think he asks?
10. Read through Prayer Turns Us Around.
A. What stands out to you?
B. What do you learn from how the psalmist turns in Psalm 77:10-12.
Friday: Pray the Gospel
11. Read the section Pray the Gospel.
A. What stands out to you?
B. How do you see a foreshadowing of the gospel in the event remembered in Psalm 77:15-20?
C. Take the trouble that you listed on Tuesday or another one, and pray the gospel. I’ll start – then it’s your turn!
Lord, You rescued me by giving Your own life. Can I not give grace to my neighbor as You have given me grace?
12. Read Lament by Faith and share what stands out to you.
13. Take one of the reflection questions and answer it. Or, share your take-a-way.