This has been such a personal study. As our Dawn said, “We really get to know one another through our laments.”
I also was so delighted when a personal friend from over forty years ago joined this study. I met Becky Harvey (now Crabtree) when we were young mothers. She was invited to the Bible study I was facilitating that turned out to be so anointed by God, as one young mother after another was surrendering to Christ. Becky listened to their testimonies. Though she had trusted Christ as a girl in Catholicism, when she was driving home after study one day, considering how these women were surrendering to Christ as adults, she sensed Jesus in the passenger seat saying, “Will you?”
Becky had no idea of the hard road ahead of her, as none of us do. She didn’t know she would lose her husband Ken when he was 52 through heart failure, then her son Brian at the age of 27 through suicide, and then her son Jed, again at the young age of 27, through a motorcycle accident. Grief upon grief. All His waves and breakers repeatedly knocking her down. (Psalm 42) Most would be bitter. But not Becky. She has become a GREAT HEART. Hearing her story helped me see how deep Becky’s roots have gone down, how God met her, and how her friends played a part by mourning with her, helping to shoulder her heavy load of grief.
In this week’s chapter from Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, Pastor Mark reflects on how the suffering of Jesus can help us not to get bitter. He quotes from another wonderful lament book: Lament for a Son.
Becky’s roots were deep into Christ when the tragedies began. It certainly helps when that is the case, for hurricane winds can pull up shallow roots. She tells what happened when Brian died:
At hearing of the death of Brian, the verse from Handel’s Messiah “SURELY, SURELY, HE HAS BORNE OUR GRIEFS AND CARRIED OUR SORROWS…” screamed in my head over and over which sounded like all the choirs and orchestras in the world put together. It was so loud, along with my moans, it brought up from the depths of my being deeper grief than I ever thought possible. Yet I knew as I cried that I was not even feeling a breath of what the Son of God felt on the cross.
Becky also shared — and I think this is vital, how the words of Ravi Zacharias guided her through the icy rivers of grief: “Worship brings coalescence of essence.” She writes: “When I felt shattered into a million pieces, it was worshipping God that put me back together.” This is what David did after the loss of his son, and what we absolutely must do to survive.
Becky also kept a journal, and God came to her in so many ways. The verse from Psalm 42 about waves and breakers is both negative (in that wave upon wave knocks us down) but also positive, for it is followed by this verse:
By day the Lord directs his love
By night his song is with me
One great blessing was God’s answer to Becky’s prayer when she told Him: I am lonely. If you think I was a good wife to Ken and there is another lonely person out there who would be blessed to have me as his wife, would you bring him to me? At that time Jerry Crabtree cried out on his knees in the woods for a wife after he had been widowed. Here is Becky and Jerry at the Gulf.
My highlight this week is from the whole study. I didn’t actually think so many would stay with me so actively, but you did. I know we all grew to appreciate and apply the lament to our walk with God in this fallen world. You are a wonderful group, and I hope to see you in our next study along with some who once were with us, but have not been for a while. I pray God will lead each of you to know if you should join us or not.
I also want to give a great thanks to those who have supported this ministry in prayer and financially. I am so appreciative. Prayer is so crucial — for wisdom, for protection, for the women here. I also haven’t wanted to charge, for I have many in need participating, including those who are out of prison. Yet, there are significant expenses. If you want to help financially, here are three ways: https://deebrestin.com/donate/ Please know how thankful I am, yet I never ever want anyone to feel pressured to give. I don’t mind pressuring you to pray! He is our Counselor, our Provider, our Wisdom and without Him this is all for naught.
I am testing a study I have been writing that I hope to have published or may self-publish (prayer please!) and therefore I am password protecting it. If you have been regular here presently or in the past (either actively or silently, but regular) and feel led to participate, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put PASSWORD in your subject line. I will e-mail you the password from email@example.com — so if that is not in your contacts, check your junk mail. We will begin next week. You will get an e-mail in your inbox or go to my homepage, click on the SHALLOWS box at the top (starting next Sunday), then put in the password where requested. It is a deeper dive into idolatry and I’m excited about what I’ve learned. The title of the study is:
Out of the
and into the Presence of God
There is something about suffering that tends to cause you to seek God more, and many are doing so during the pandemic.
This week Tim Keller wrote that his ongoing cancer battle has driven him and his wife, Kathy, “to seek God’s face as we never [have] before.”
“He is giving us more of his sensed presence, more freedom from our besetting sins, more dependence on his Word — things that we had sought for years, but only under these circumstances are we finding them.” He also shared the good news that his oncologist is greatly encouraged by the scans showing improvement after six chemo treatments. Keller credits prayers and asks us to continue.
Please let me know in the next few days if you want to commit to the study and I’ll send you the password.
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- What things do you think help people not to get bitter? What has helped you?
Monday: Why Lament?
3. Read up to “Reading Scripture” in Chapter 10 and share a few reasons why we should lament.
4. Read “Reading Scripture” and share one thing that stands out to you.
5. Find a lament that we have not covered in Scripture and share why it is meaningful to you.
Tuesday: How To Lament with Friends
Becky was also blessed with friends who knew how to lament with her. Pastor Mark quotes the author of Lament for a Son who says, “Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.”
6. Read the section called “Grieving” and share what stands out to you.
7. Describe a healing way to respond to a grieving friend. Be specific as to what you would do.
8. Share how wise friends helped you in grief. Be specific.
I absolutely loved the section in this book when Mark told of the pastor who lamented with a man who had same-sex attraction. That is something I will not forget from Dark Clouds Deep Mercy. No pat answers, no rebuke, just a lament.
9. Read the section “Counseling” and share what stands out to you.
Wednesday: I Was a Brute Beast Before You/Ps. 73
Pastor Mark dips into the purpose of the imprecatory psalms in this section.
9. Read the section “Overcoming Bitterness” and share what stands out to you.
While it is true we are to forgive our enemies, there is nothing wrong about lamenting about their injustice and asking God to deal with them according to His character. In Crosswalk, the writer wrote: “Consider Peter’s citation of the imprecatory section in Psalms 69 and 109 in reference to Judas Iscariot: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it’; and, ‘His office let another man take'” (Acts 1:20). Peter is here citing an invocation of judgment and a curse against the one who betrayed God’s Messiah.
Several times in my life, when someone was acting godlessly and hurting others, I have lamented and then prayed: “Please either change his heart or take him out.” By “take him out” I didn’t necessarily mean to kill him, but to remove him somehow from his power to hurt. God answered that prayer with my daughter’s abusive husband, with a godless school superintendent, and with a hospital administrator who cared, not for the patients, but for the bottom line. This is how I apply the imprecatory psalms to my life. I think it also helps, when you have been treated unjustly, to remember the end of those who cause so much hurt, as is done in the following psalm:
10. Read Psalm 73.
A. What is the theme of this psalm according to verses 1-3?
B. Read verses 4-12 — what does Asaph see from a worldly perspective?
C. What is his lament in verses 13-16?
D. Describe his turn and his thoughts led by the Spirit in verses 17-22.
E. Describe his resolve and gratitude in verses 23-28.
11. How might you apply Psalm 73 to your life?
12. Read Confessing Our Sins in the book and share what stands out to you.
Thursday: Battling Loneliness/Psalm 42
In her book, The Path of Loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot writes:
“The heart which has no agenda but God’s is the heart at leisure from itself. Its emptiness is filled with the Love of God. Its solitude can be turned into prayer.”
13. How has loneliness pressed you into God? Be specific.
14. Read “Battling Loneliness”
A. Why did the man battling Alzheimer’s describe Sunday worship as being like lemon juice
in a paper cut?
B. What else stands out to you from this section?
15. Read Psalm 42 in its entirety.
A. What evidence of loneliness do you see in this psalm?
B. How did the psalmist turn this into a prayer of lament? Be specific.
C. Share a time when deep called to deep, when you sensed God’s love beneath the waves.
Friday: Keep Trusting the One Who Keeps You Trusting
16. Read the last section in this chapter, “Keep Trusting” and share what stands out to you.
17. What unresolved pain causes you to apply this section?
18. Answer one question from the final section.
19. Answer two more questions from final section and share a take-a-way.