God sings a song of renewal and restoration within your pain.

A Melody Above the Noise of Your Grief

Written by real people with genuine feelings–often worn closer to the surface than this stoic New Englander might like–the Bible gives voice to a full range of emotions. There is plenty of joy, lots of celebration, and this has found its way into our worship. However, we are less comfortable with the practice of biblical lament:

  • David wails his abandonment and anguish of soul;
  • Jeremiah mourns the demise of true righteousness and the fall of his nation;
  • Hannah’s weeping is so out of control that she attracts the attention of the priest who assumes she is intoxicated.

When believers hurl their complaints God-ward, he responds with compassion. Aubrey Sampson finds in God’s great love evidence that he “doesn’t avoid or ignore pain. He sings a louder song over it. And he invites his hurting people to sing with him.” (11) She describes her own journey of lament, and loss in The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament.

Suffering as an Invitation

The death of a beloved cousin, the ongoing physical challenges of her youngest son, and then, as if to add weakness to the overwhelm, the symptoms of a mysterious illness hang on and intensify, leaving Audrey in continual pain.  A counselor challenged her and her husband to lean into the invitation suffering offers, to stop trying to “handle it,” fix it, understand it, or explain it away and, in the presence of the deep loss, to allow, “the unanswerable to remain unanswered while still declaring that suffering will not have the final say.” (11)

The Louder Song is a place where life in the trenches of mothering and ministry meets solid biblical scholarship. A peaceful heart in the face of suffering honors the sovereignty of God while putting his compassionate nature on display. “He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103)

Aubrey accepted God’s invitation and began scribbling the howl of her questions into an ekah journal, a landing place based in the Hebrew word for “how” that echoed the psalmists’ blunt questions:  “God, how could you allow this?” Instead of running from her sorrow, she began where she was–with complaint. Like David and Jeremiah and so many other sad singers of the Bible, she found that, while her misery did not dissipate, her complaint mysteriously morphed into praise. Even in dark times in which she found it impossible to be thankful for her circumstances, Aubrey was able to rest in the character of God and to trust his motives.

Go Ahead. Lament.

Romans 5 beats a direct path from suffering to hope, and it travels the route of the testing of our faith. James shares the same map, promising maturity at the end of the road, but this acceptance of God’s invitation to lament is an acknowledgement that God may take us through suffering rather than delivering us from it. Aubrey has been tutored into taking a long view of biblical promises of deliverance:

” So lament your social-media obsessions. Lament your days on the couch. Lament your former glories and all of those what-ifs. God wants them all. He wants every burden, every broken path, every looking back. But then, return your gaze to Jesus.” (103)

This fixed and unflinching gaze to the Savior defines the difference between lament and despair. With no where to look, despair comes (literally) “down from hope” (154), sits down, closes its eyes, and gives up. Lament looks squarely at the evil in the world, at the unchosen, undeserved, unwanted, and unfair and then looks for the God who is nearby and listening. A howl from the heart implies the awareness of a Listener, and lament may be your first stop on the pathway back toward hope.


Many thanks to NavPress for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because of His Great Mercy,

michele signature[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Jonas Weckschmied on Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Published by

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 nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. 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.

70 thoughts on “A Melody Above the Noise of Your Grief”

  1. Michele, what a wonderful review of a powerful book! Love this quote, “A peaceful heart in the face of suffering honors the sovereignty of God while putting his compassionate nature on display. “He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103)” So true! Many blessings to you ❤️

    Like

  2. We do try to “handle it”, don’t we? I am not a stoic New Englander, but I often feel as though my emotions must be in check at all times. Thank you for giving us “permission” to let go just a little bit. The book sounds lovely. Putting it on my list!

    Like

  3. Bottom line – God wants us to be genuine and sometimes that means we are suffering. Putting a smile on our face when we don’t feel like it and soldiering through denies who we are. Thanks, Michele, for the reminder of the many emotions we have as a result of being made in God’s image.

    Like

  4. Sounds excellent. I’m thrilled to see more articles and books on this topic. I personally don’t know how to handle things like grief and lament well. I’m learning.

    Like

  5. Our church recently spent several weeks reading five psalms each week and discussing them on Sundays. What a rich study. Even the one that doesn’t come around to hope in the end still implies hope and expresses faith because the psalmist brings his unanswered questions to God. How blessed we are that we can be honest with God, that faith doesn’t require a “stiff upper lip.” Yet we somehow expect that of modern-day Christians. Sounds like Aubrey does a great job of fleshing these things out in a modern context.

    Like

    1. I had never heard that particular take on the psalm that doesn’t resolve into praise. Entirely true, though, and very helpful. Sometimes it’s all we can do to just turn our eyes in the right direction.

      Like

  6. So true. With the recent loss of a wonderful young man, it is the mind trying to constantly find a solution as we often do with problems. However, with a sudden, tragic death, it is hard to have a solution. Like how her book says to quit trying to handle it. The mind at these times is like a computer that keeps trying to source it, explain it, and find the language that is necessary until the realization that is just is. May have to check out her book. Nice review. 🙂

    Like

    1. Oh, that’s so true! Our brains loop, searching for the logic behind tragedy when there is none. I appreciated Aubrey’s assertion that our best search is in God’s direction and he has given us the words in Scripture.

      Like

  7. I’ve never heard of this book, but once again, you’ve added something to my “to-read” list.

    We live in a broken world and there is suffering and it hurts. BUT GOD! It’s important to acknowledge the pain, but then we can point to the Savior. This is hope in the midst of the storm. I love what you wrote near the end of the post: “Lament looks squarely at the evil in the world, at the unchosen, undeserved, unwanted, and unfair and then looks for the God who is nearby and listening.”

    Like

    1. OH, that sentence came from a very sensitive spot at the time I wrote it, because so much of what we find on our plate on this planet is stuff we would NEVER have chosen. I’m grateful for the timing of this book, and glad the review came across your screen as well.

      Like

  8. It’s great to see a book strong in biblical truth that God is okay with our lamenting! Yes, we are to have a heart of gratitude, yet He wants us to come to Him with everything. It saddens me when I see Christians scared to lament, thinking it not be right to do so and then holding it all in causing havoc on the body and the spirit. Thanks for sharing this book and important message!

    Like

    1. I was thankful for this truth as well, Lynn, having been kind of saturated at some point along the way with “happy clappy” theology. Yes, there is joy, but it is often in the midst of deep grief. A right understanding of God makes room for paradox.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is great Michele! I especially love this quote, “This fixed and unflinching gaze to the Savior defines the difference between lament and despair. With nowhere to look, despair comes, sits down, closes its eyes, and gives up.” It’s so true. So glad we have Hope! I have several friends that are currently grieving the loss of a loved one. This post is meaningful! Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragentments. Shared!

    Like

    1. Glad that quote was meaningful, Patsy. One of the joys–and one of the heavy burdens–of life in community is carrying the weight of others’ sorrow with us. So thankful that God bears the brunt of the load.

      Like

  10. Michele,
    This sounds like a book I need to read. Heaven knows I’ve done my share of lamenting! Only in God’s strength can we move past the “Why” and accept what is, and that God will be with us every step of the way. I know I have been drawn to Christ in ways that no path, other than suffering, would ever provide. We are called to suffer as Christ suffered and we are called to rejoice as He rejoiced in defeating death. Great review!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Like

    1. I’m so glad to hear that God has been meeting you in the midst of these hard times you’ve been soldiering through. It was a great encouragement to read your thoughts on self care today! Keep up the good work!

      Like

  11. Michele,
    I think it’s hard for our culture to understand lamenting. I don’t think we’re always good at grieving loss in our hurried society. I love this line, “he “doesn’t avoid or ignore pain. He sings a louder song over it.” It makes me think of two songs, the one that quotes Scripture about how God sings over us and then the new song from Bethel in Redding called “I raise a Hallelujah”, talking about raising our song louder than the enemies taunts of defeat. It’s comforting to know that on the days when I’m not strong enough to sing louder than the enemy, that God is and He sings over us. He’s so good!
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

    Like

    1. Yes, we are privileged North Americans who really have a choice about much of our “suffering.” May we live in obedience to his leading and keep our ears open to the sound of His singing over the noise.

      Like

  12. Michele, I love this view of suffering as invitation. We tend to want to run fast in the other direction. But time and experience tells us that never works for long.

    And oh, my, we do encounter God in that place of lament. Praise be …

    Like

    1. Yup. I’m pretty fast with a detour around those wilderness and desert lands. And then I remember that he’s traveling with me to bring springs in the desert and to beat a path for me through the wilderness.

      Like

  13. Michele, so many profound thoughts here. I tend to try to veer away from suffering. But, God has taught me that there is beauty to be found in those times that try the spirit. And when we can pour out our complaints, our hearts to the Lord? I believe He honors that and draws us closer to Himself. Beautiful review here.

    Like

  14. Sounds like The Louder Song is another worthy read. I find great encouragement in this statement: “Even in dark times in which she found it impossible to be thankful for her circumstances, Aubrey was able to rest in the character of God and to trust his motives.” Indeed, He IS reliable; He NEVER fails us. Aubrey’s affirmations do much to bolster the faith of the rest of us.

    Like

    1. I mentioned that because OH, I am on that trajectory as well. And it’s one I come back to all the time. God is good even when I don’t understand His ways. My confessional theology is all over that, but practical theology travels a bumpy road behind the truth.

      Like

    1. I think we all need help with this, particularly evangelicals of our vintage. The Bible gives us the lyrics, and the Spirit invites us to embrace the truth: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Although very acquainted with grief (and other heartaches), I don’t think I know/understand how to “lament” well. (I am much more stoic than I admit – although not a New Englander!) 🙂 This book sounds helpful. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week ahead –

    Like

    1. Don’t you think that in the evangelical tradition, we’ve been taught to send our feelings underground? Maybe it’s an American thing, too.
      While I realize that God does not call us to make our pain into our identity, I believe he has given us words of lament in Scripture as a pattern for how to bring our pain to him.

      Like

  16. Anxious to read this book. It sounds so good. We are so uncomfortable with lament and almost think it is wrong. And when we hear someone lamenting it is like we start pointing out the positives to counter their lament. We have so much to learn about lamenting.

    Like

    1. What you’ve said here is so true of me! I want to cheer people up: “Look on the bright side!” Sometimes our best strategy is just to sit with someone in their lament and hear their heart.

      Like

  17. Michele, there’s so much here that really resonates with me, especially right now. Psalm 103, and particularly the verse that says God knows how we are formed and remembers that we are dust, has long been a comfort. We are such finite beings, often unable to articulate how we feel or why, and what a blessing it is that God understands that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book, my friend.

    Like

  18. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this—it’s like you were literally writing right to me and to the stuff I’m going through right now. Are you familiar with the song, Raise a Hallelujah? We’ve been singing this at church the last couple weeks and it has a similar message. Thanks for sharing at The Homemaking Party!

    Like

  19. Oh, this has post has given me a whole new thought about honest devotional journaling. Why do I withhold my deepest anguish from the One Who already knows my every thought?

    Like

  20. To allow “the unanswerable to remain unanswered while still declaring that suffering will not have the final say.” What a powerful quote! As I wrote elsewhere today, grief is such a personal thing. When my first husband went to glory at the age of 34, I also poured my heart out in a journal. When I began, I thought it would be full of complaint. It was instead, pages and pages of praise and thankfulness. The Lord used that journal to begin healing my heart.

    Like

  21. Such an interesting post Michele! I am a glass half full kind of gal so rarely lament but there was a time when my late husband was dying & when this nasty FM was lingering far longer that I thought it should that I did lament to the Lord. It relieves carrying the burden & in that there can be praise.
    Have a blessed weekend in celebrating our Risen Savior, 😀
    Jennifer

    Like

    1. Thanks be to God for writers who are unpacking the biblical arguments for leaning into lament. I just finished reading and reviewing Jen Pollock Michel’s new book: Surprised by Paradox. She has a section about the paradox of lament which I loved.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.