Laughter on the Pathway of Lament

When we read about women in the Bible, there’s a tendency to flatten them out into cardboard characters, one-dimensional and distant.  Kate Merrick was in that camp as well, intimidated by the fabulous woman of Proverbs 31, judging Bathsheba, missing the depth of Mary’s sacrifice in saying yes to God, and brushing Sarah off as that old lady who had a baby.

Then, her nine-year-old daughter died of cancer.

Desperate for moorings in an ocean of loss, Kate looked to the Truth of Scripture and found there a community of women who had suffered as she was suffering.  When she delved into their stories, her collision course with bitterness and despair slowly turned toward joy and peaceful acceptance of the will of God.  In And Still She Laughs, Kate Merrick is still writing from that liminal place between tangible grief and the new normal that finds its way to the surface, so her words are raw and real, and just about right for me in these days following the death of my mum.

Like breaking in a new pair of jeans, like the bathing suit that fits everyone differently, like a water balloon that if you let just a little bit out it might explode on everyone, Kate employs multiple metaphors to bring her readers into the world that opened up to her when she joined the ranks of the bereaved.  Still longing for the old jeans, and having realized that grief looks different on everyone, she encourages readers to throw her book across the room if it helps — and then to come back to it later at a different stage of grieving.

A Path Through Grief

Since a Western understanding of living “blessed” only served to drive Kate further into bitterness, she turned to the stories of biblical women, for whether one reads Bathsheba as roof-top temptress or helpless victim, the ultimate outcome of King David’s moral lapse was the loss of their baby son.  Bathsheba’s story became a virtual grief support group for Kate since so many of their story-points coincided:

When I was the only woman I knew who had experienced death so close to my heart, I remember how she had too.  . . She whispered strength, dignity, and fearlessness.  When I was comforted with a pregnancy, I remembered that she had been too.  She showed me how to be loyal to another child while grieving the first.  She held my hand in the gloom, leaned close to my ear and whispered, ‘Me too.'”

Then there was the dawning realization that, like Sarah, grief and bitterness were leading Kate toward a “bitter, hardened laughter, like a waste product of a sick heart.”  Sarah’s Old Testament story sounds idyllic from a distance:  remarkable beauty, a godly husband with unlimited assets, a bevy of servants, and exotic travel opportunities — and Kate is convinced that Sarah “was covered in swanky accessories.”  (Sure, why not?)  But then, there were the empty arms, and the seemingly empty promises of God:  Sarah had waited so long that even good news elicited bitterness, bubbling forth in a sneering laugh alone in her tent.

Opening the heart to a journey of grief puts a mother in company with Mary, who demonstrated that a yes to God can lead to a sword through the heart.

“The yes doesn’t always make sense.  We don’t fully understand how God works, but we read in 2 Corinthians 1:20: ‘For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory.”

Ultimately, Kate realized that her bitterness was directed toward God.  She had lost sight of the truth that, in her suffering, Jesus was suffering with her.  In the midst of our own Romans 8 groaning, we need to hear, again and again, that we are foreigners on this planet, but we do not grieve without hope.  Like Mary, Bathsheba, and Sarah, we are citizens of heaven and live in anticipation of a day in which death will be swallowed up in life, the empty arms of grieving mums will be filled, and the laughter our hearts long for will never end.

//

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

You can read an excerpt from And Still She Laughs and check out the book trailer here at Ann Voskamp’s place.  

There’s lots more of Kate Merrick’s great story telling here on her own blog.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

52 thoughts on “Laughter on the Pathway of Lament”

  1. I like this idea that Bible characters come to life through our own experiences. And I think the same is true for real life characters we meet on a daily basis. When we can find a point of commonality with others, we realize they aren’t so different from us. We discover community with those of this world and unity through Jesus with them in the next. Blessings!

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  2. Hmm, one-dimensional — that’s kinda true, isn’t it? It’s easy to see them as historical figures than as the women they were, full of weighty feelings just like us. Looks like a good book. Thanks for sharing. Hope your heart is doing well, Michele. Continued prayers. ((xoxo))

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  3. Beautiful, Michele. Finding “me too” with the real women of Scripture but ultimately finding “me too” with Jesus in her mourning. Praying you continue to find comfort in His open arms, sweet friend. ((Hugs))

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  4. For such a time as this, Michele, a gift for you in your own deep grief. I am grateful it has found its way to your hands and heart right about now.

    Praying for you as I write these words, friend …

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    1. Good question. It really depends on the person. I’ve had some people tell me that reading a book about the loss of a child was too raw for them even after years. (I think it was when I reviewed Colors of Goodbye by September Vaudrey.) For me, I think a book would be healing and helpful in processing my own grief, but, of course I don’t know how I would actually respond to such a huge loss. Praying for you, Maree, to have wisdom.

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  5. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to change us—or the way we think. Lamenting indeed tests our characters and molds us into something beautiful. But gosh, grief is too hard to bear.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an amazing thing that Kate was able to find comfort for her own loss by looking at the lives of women of the Bible who also suffered deeply. The Bible is rich with everything we need to comfort our pain isn’t it? I imagine it must have been hard to read this book Michele, but what a blessing to those who read. Thank you for the review. Patti

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  7. Grief is like a scabbed knee…just when you think you’ve developed a healing layer, you bump up against something and rub it raw again. At least that’s how it is for me. The women in the Bible didn’t become real for me either until I was fighting infertility and then later when we had Charlie and began receiving diagnosis after diagnosis.

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  8. Grief, while common to us all, comes to us all in different ways. Grief is processed by each heart so personally and individually, as unique as we each are. This is a wonderful review and reminder that every story contained in Scripture serves as examples for us in everything we experience. Praying for you, Michele. Thank you for always bringing such lovely reviews!

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  9. Michele, this is a wonderful post to read! I loved the deeper understanding of the Bible people. Bathsheba is always portrayed as tempting David, but with David being the all powerful king, she wasn’t given any choices. Like you wrote, she lost her baby because of the sin. Fantastic read this morning! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Isn’t it interesting that these women who experienced such great loss, long before we were born, are still speaking to us today through their stories? It isn’t an accident that their stories are in the Bible. I’m glad she didn’t remain bitter but sought her comfort through the Scriptures.

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  11. I love how even though the women in the Bible lived so long ago there are still similarities with us in many ways and their example can give us insights into our own situation. I’m glad you found this book at the right moment to help you in your own grief.

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    1. We have a chronological snobbery, don’t we, that leads us to think that we’re so far advanced in our feelings and our experiences are so far removed from people’s of the past, when the truth is that he human soul has always had an abundance of highs and lows and joys and sufferings.

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  12. Sounds like an amazing book. I’m wondering if you just recently read this book and how impacted you in your own grief??

    We don’t look far enough at times to realize others are experiencing grief too. We close ourselves off because it is easier than explaining what we are feeling. Thank you for reviewing this book and pointing out three women-Bathsheba, Sarah and Mary who don’t always looks closely enough at their stories.

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    1. I finished it before Mum passed away, and it did give some valuable perspective — and reminded me that I have so much to be thankful for.

      Kate was very transparent in her grieving, and I was fascinated by her willingness to share her own heart while also going deep scripturally — such a healthy melding of truth and emotion.

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  13. Michele- this book looks great! It’s true, we forget these women of the Bible had real hurts and feelings. They hold so much wisdom and advice for us as we endure our hard seasons!
    Adding this book to my list:)
    Visiting from #InspireMeMonday

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  14. Michele, I always love being your neighbor at the link-ups because every time I come here I get such great insights and often a very good book review. I love how you bring out that the author has really seen the “realness” of these women in the Bible. They are so much like us, with the same depth of feelings and the same hurting hearts. We tend to forget that. Your book review is a good reminder of this today.

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    1. Reading the way we often do, on the fly and with a goal in mind, we miss the humanity of biblical characters. I appreciated Kate’s willingness to go deep and then to share what she observed with her readers.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. You’re such an excellent reviewer, Michele! You make me want to read every book you review. 🙂 I’ll have to check this one out!

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  16. What a great reminder to read for real characters in the Bible rather than the cardboard cutouts. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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  17. Michele – I am so sorry about your Mum, no matter when or how long ago a loved one has passed we still work through the process of loss. Kate’s book sounds perfect for those trying to process and fund some anchor to their hurting hearts and rocked world. I love that she is raw and real in sharing where she is at. Thanks for this review and for linking up with #TuneInThursday last week.

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  18. Thanks for the review. I just got a copy of this book. After reading your words, it is moving to the top of the pile. Love the title. Laughter won’t solve the problem, but it cuts the pain and refreshes the spirit in times of grief.

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  19. ‘She had lost sight of the truth that, in her suffering, Jesus was suffering with her.’ Yep, sometimes we forget, but in the remembering there’s hope. Praying for you as you grieve the loss of your mum, Michele. Thanks for another great review!

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  20. Michele, My heart and prayers are with you as you continue to grieve. This book seems like one I may purchase for my friend who suddenly lost her 14-year-old son 9 months ago in a tragic accident. Thank you for reviewing and sharing. And thank you for your heart to encourage others ♥
    Blessings,
    Lori

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    1. Oh, I do hope that your friend will be helped by Kate’s experience and shared wisdom. I’m so thankful that we have resources available to share with our grieving friends — and that will point them to Christ.

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