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

When Words Fail: Living and Lamenting through Dementia

It’s a common experience:  the brain goes in search of a word that just will not materialize. Finally, eventually, the elusive word does come, even if it takes a thesaurus to prime the pump, and we rejoice because in conversation and in writing, finding and savoring the just-right-word to frame a thought is supremely satisfying.

Therefore, it was a searing loss for Douglas and Becky Groothuis when Becky began experiencing the symptoms of a uniquely devastating form of dementia (primary progressive aphasia) which robs the patient first of words, then of all executive function, and eventually of life. As writers, speakers, and teachers, Douglas and Becky’s life together and their livelihoods, their humor and their recreation, had revolved around words. Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness-A Philosopher’s Lament traces the tragedy of their loss from the caregiver’s perspective as, slowly, Groothuis’s beloved wife and companion begins slipping away.

The Language of Lament

Borrowing words from Moses and a soundtrack from Pink Floyd, Groothuis sings a lament in the key of faith, describing a slow suffering in a book that no one would want to write. He expressed lament with Buechner-esque accuracy:

Lament is the place “where our deep sadness meets the world’s deep wounds.”  (55, 56)

Christian lament should not be silenced or hurried along, for it is a sorrow mingled with hope, and those who mourn are “aching visionaries” (57) who lead us in expressing our own broken hearts in a context of healing and purpose found only in the knowledge of God. The worry and the despair of Becky’s gradual slippage wore on Douglas’s spirit, and he related with candor his season of misotheism–“hatred of God” (41)–in which it seemed that God (whose existence Groothuis never questioned) just was not listening and would not relieve their suffering.

Becky’s aphasia and loss of executive function rendered normal routines of life–tying shoes, brushing teeth, using a phone–inscrutable. With both caregiver and patient, efficiency is just a memory, but rendering lemonade from this sour mess, Groothuis observed, “Uni-tasking is often more important than multitasking.”  Leaning into the beauty and the gift of becoming the caring person in his wife’s days, his focus became the embodiment of “unmediated presence,” which comes as close to expressing the image of God as we can hope for on this planet.

Walking Through Twilight Together

As both a philosopher and a lover of God, the author plumbs the depths of his suffering and emerges with wisdom for the body of Christ both to lend purpose to our personal experiences of suffering and to sharpen our skill in coming alongside others as we enter fully and most helpfully into the brokenness of others.

Because it is a unique and long-term loss, our hearts so often do not know how to help a family that is struggling with some form of dementia. Cards and letters are a thoughtful way to express concern because they can be read in quiet moments.

Both tenderness and respect are crucial to communication and help to eliminate the tendency to talk down to dementia patients, to raise one’s voice, and to condescend. Becky Groothuis appreciated visitors and medical personnel who included her in conversations, who spoke directly to her and not merely about her.

Beware of Mere Optimism

As a caregiver, Douglas eventually begin to dread the question, “How is Becky?” A truthful answer would have been too hard for most casual inquirers to handle:  “She’s not doing well, and she will never get better.” Instead of inflicting the burden of vague questions, he suggests that we avoid trying to cheer caregivers up or to move them forward in their grief. Better instead:  grant them time and space to grieve. He urges believers to “pray for wisdom before speaking or communicating with someone under the pressure of loss.”

When offering help, be sure to follow through with action. Providing meals, transportation, or assistance with mundane tasks speaks love. Pronouncements shaped around Romans 8:28 and “I know how you feel” are presumptuous and not helpful, particularly in the earliest days of grief.

“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”  (Proverbs 25:20)

When words fail, when things fall apart, and the twilight signals that darkness is on its way in your own small world, God is present there in the twilight.

Even when words fail, the Word Himself is present and He will never fail.


And this update will enable you to pray with knowledge for the author as he journeys through grief:

At 6:45 a.m. on July 6, 2018, Becky Groothuis peacefully entered the presence of her Lord. Douglas shared these thoughts on Facebook shortly after her passing:

“Her long, long struggle is over. I don’t have to worry about her any more. . . Becky’s body is upstairs and will soon leave this house and all earthly houses forever. She has already risen from her body into God’s realm of angels and saints.

I don’t believe this for sentimental reasons. I worked hard for my worldview. We are more than our bodies. We have souls. The soul leaves the body at death to go into God’s presence. Christ’s resurrection is the down payment for our resurrection after the intermediate state. These beliefs hold me as God holds me, and Becky.


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

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 advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness-A Philosopher’s 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.

Thank you, as always, for reading and for your continual encouragement,

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.

Thanksgiving Celebration and Lament

Nearly thirty years ago, I married into a family that celebrated Thanksgiving Day with All-American fervor, featuring a day-long gathering and a loaded table. As the new bride, I was eager to prove that I had what it took to be the holiday hostess. Having done my research, I had planned all the best sides, multiple-choice pie selections, and a huge bird to fill the oven — but I had not planned for my mother-in-law’s life-threatening illness.

We rejoiced when she was released from the hospital on the Wednesday before the Big Day and decided to take the party to her place. As we rose early to prepare the feast, she was delighted to be present for all the kitchen activity, savoring the aroma of fresh rolls and roasted turkey from her recliner. We set the table with her best china, rolled out the amazing feast, and gathered for the celebration.

It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

But read on . . .

CaptureI’m sharing the whole story over at (in)courage today, and the truth is, I have spent the years since that first fiasco of a feast slowly learning that whenever we gather on this planet, it is for an imperfect celebration in which our only hope for joy is to look squarely at the empty seat, at the strained relationships, at the flawed execution of all our Pinterest-worthy plans.

And then to give thanks.

I’m giving thanks for you today! May your season of Thanksgiving be filled with joy and an abiding gratitude for all that God has given — and for the Giver Himself as He presides over your celebration.

To finish reading this post, click here and join me today at (in)courage!

Sign up here to receive free notes from (in)courage, sent right to your inbox daily! 

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews 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.

 

 

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.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews 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.

 

Celebration and Lament

The walls had been rebuilt.

The people living in and around the city of Jerusalem had gathered.

Along with the fresh aroma of new lumber from Ezra’s wooden platform and his strong voice ringing out over the hum of the crowd, celebration was in the air! Within the barely-renovated city walls of Jerusalem, there was a party brewing, and it was no token religious observance.

For the first time in a thousand years (Nehemiah 8:17), the Nation of Israel was gearing up for the Feast of Tabernacles. “Booths” — little huts, really -– would be cobbled together from branches and set up on rooftops and in courtyards, and families would live in their booths for seven days to commemorate Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Remember, too, that, although Jerusalem’s protective outer wall had been restored, this is all taking place in a city where many houses had still not been rebuilt, (Nehemiah 7:4).

I’m actually a little jealous when I picture this holiday:

An Annual Camp Out!

Gathering piles of branches with the kids, making a cozy nest inside the booth, and hearing the small voice:

“Tell us again, Mum . . . why are we doing this?”

Then the magic of storytelling under the stars would begin in which history flows from memory into the hearts of another generation — with everything made tangible by the show-and-tell of celebration.

Of course, in the re-telling there would be sadness for Jerusalem was still a city in captivity, its citizens still an oppressed people. Forking over up to 50% of their earnings in taxes to the Persian Empire, they were only just beginning to recover from the exile’s comprehensive shattering of their self-perception as God’s people. They were still in the process of learning their way back into fellowship with God. Governor Nehemiah’s gracious pronouncement to kick-off their feasting was desperately needed:

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” —Nehemiah 8:10

And so it is today.

We live with one foot in celebration and the other in lament. Whenever we gather on this planet, it is for an imperfect celebration in which our only hope for joy is to look squarely at the empty seat, at the strained relationships, at the imperfect execution of all our Pinterest-worthy plans. Our only prayer for peace is to own the sadness; to recognize the power that grinding sorrow has over our hearts—and then to throw the door wide open to the feast.

By acknowledging and even embracing lament—an art we have lost here in North America—our celebration can be restored. Our feasting can be deeply sincere, even in a context of deep suffering or deep disappointment.

In the case of Israel, the people had just stood outside for about six hours (yes, stood), “from morning until mid-day,” listening to Ezra as he read aloud to them their saw-tooth record of rebellion. Their tearful response revealed that they were cut deeply with the weight of national failure over the centuries, but Nehemiah’s instructions proclaimed that the time had come for the people to begin, once again, to eat and drink blessing to themselves:

“Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Until Jesus comes, it will be this longing and this feasting that keeps my heart’s sonar trolling for Kingdom shalom. I will lament the family that could have been if not for alcoholism, if not for mental illness and garden-variety selfishness.

But when I grasp warm hands and gaze at the faces around my table, by faith I will celebrate the family that is because of the forgiveness that lubricates our relational gears; because of much-beloved friends who have been grafted in; because of the cords of grace that hold our hearts in joy.

//

This post first appeared in SheLoves Magazine (November 2015).


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box 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.

Pain, Emotion, and God

Elisabeth Elliot coined the most memorable definition of human suffering that I have ever heard:  “Suffering is wanting what you don’t have — or having what you don’t want.”  These words came to mind often as I read Between Pain and Grace, because Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer have initiated a fresh conversation which does not claim to be the last word on suffering, but is characterized by the scope, depth, and fidelity one would expect from two of Moody Bible Institute’s theology professors.

My attention was arrested immediately by the authors’ careful distinction between pain and suffering.  Consider this:

Pain  — “primarily objective, external, and typically social or physical as opposed to personal and mental.”
Suffering — “primarily subjective, internal, and typically mental or emotional.”

This distinction is important because not all pain is received as suffering — just ask an Olympic gymnast or a brand-new mum.  Conversely, those with leprosy or diabetic neuropathy would welcome pain as a means to alleviate the suffering that occurs when they injure their insensitive extremities.  Dr. Eric Cassell chimes in with the succinct conclusion that “the only way to learn whether suffering is present is to ask the sufferer.”

A biblical theology of suffering must include the truth that Scripture provides a voice for those who suffer; it acknowledges the reality of innocent suffering; and, without moralizing, it affirms the presence of God in the midst of pain.   I never tire of hearing the truth that God is fluent in the language of lament.  He has graciously appointed “script writers” in the psalms and prophets, and throughout Scripture, honest expressions of grief are portrayed as a “natural exhale of worship.”

Because a lively faith is open to the uncomfortable questions and painful stories of those who suffer, the church gathered must be clear in its identity as a safe place for the expression of grief and disappointment. Counselors, individuals dealing with dysfunctional families, and  those who have experienced sexual abuse or who are dealing in some way with mental illness will appreciate the authors’ frank discussion of these topics as they relate to what the Scripture says about pain and suffering.

The term “relational ecosystem” runs as a theme throughout Between Pain and Grace, affirming the fact that there is no such thing as a private or contained sin.  The relational ecosystem of God’s creation has been shaken to its roots by sin, and this is seen at every level:
God with mankind;
man with woman;
humanity with animals;
and humanity with the ground.
Brokenness abounds and the outcome is alienation.  Anger sends out generational shock waves that are amply illustrated in Old Testament family dysfunction.  Peterman and Schmutzer refer to David’s family life as a “relational debris field,” acknowledging that we all are part of “interlocking relationships” that surround us “like the rings of a tree.”

Our relational ecosystem, tangled as it is in personal weakness and sin (another fascinating distinction that the authors delineate), demonstrates the efficacy of the redemption that comes to us in the midst of our brokenness.  Because God Himself chose a path of vulnerability for His Son, the record of Scripture is that God experiences pain and “a theology of a suffering God is evident throughout the testimony of Scripture.”  God’s transcendence is balanced by His immanence, as evidenced in His compassionate love, His relatedness with His creation, and His willingness to risk relationally.

Looking at The Lord’s Prayer through the lens of pain gives it a fresh application, for in Matthew 6, Jesus provides a model for prayer in a suffering world, a challenge to transcend our worries and pain by focusing first on “God’s honor, God’s good, and God’s moral requirements.”

Opening one’s life to spiritual leadership roles also opens the door to some unique forms of suffering — rejection, hopelessness, and discontentment.  We follow a Savior who entered into suffering voluntarily.   Peterman and Schmutzer assert that leaders have likewise made that choice, but then offer the encouragement that tears shed are part of the leader’s path to Christ-likeness.

Since suffering is unavoidable on a fallen planet, this question is also unavoidable for the thinking believer:  What needs to happen in the space between pain and grace?  For most people (including the Apostle Paul!), it holds a journey of acceptance, a yielding of expectations, and most important of all, a commitment to receive the gift of suffering from the hand of an all-wise and sovereign God.

//

This book was provided by Moody Publishers 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.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Happy Hallelujah

On New Year’s Eve 2015, our family had gathered with friends for our traditional celebration, but I had decided to shake things up a tiny bit.  Yes, we would eat goodies and play games and laugh at our crazy kids as usual, but I had found a list of thoughtful questions for us to ponder.  One of them stopped me in my tracks, because, without hesitation, my husband and I gave the identical answer — in unison:  With what word would you describe 2015?

“Disappointment,” we both said, and now, having read Broken Hallelujahs by Beth Slevcove, I can’t help but wish that the book had been written a year sooner, for Beth looks squarely at the truth that for most of our lives, we are living on “Holy Saturday,” waiting for a resurrection and walking in a hope that feels, at times, beyond hope.  Her journey began with multiple stories playing out in her life at the same time:  her brother’s diagnosis with brain cancer; his decline and eventual death; an on-going struggle with infertility; the realization that rheumatoid arthritis would limit her activity level and cause chronic pain; and a crashing economy that took her family business into bankruptcy.

Beth’s poignant memoir of grief and waiting moves beside a parallel narrative of spiritual formation.  “God, are you kidding?” became Beth’s prayer and anthem of loss, sung as she groped toward enough light to stay on the way of faith.  I especially appreciated her admission that her practical theology had centered around a cause-and-effect-vending-machine God.  Disappointment and unmet expectations led, eventually, to a howling lament that opened her ears to the sound of her losses, and, like the psalmists who poured out their sad hearts before God, she found that the “answer” to her cry was not an answer at all but a Person.    In learning how to pray out of that place of depletion, Beth realized that prayer postures can be a wordless connection, an expression in themselves of “openness, vulnerability, acceptance . . . submission, humility, and repentance.”

At the end of each chapter, Beth challenges her readers to dig deeper in a “here’s what worked for me” tone through exercises that require three healing behaviors:

  • Listening to your body, to your desires and emotions, to your places of poverty and neglect.
  • Engaging through projects that foster creativity, movement of the body, prayer practices, self-examination, and through questions that reflect on past behaviors and habits.
  • Connecting with God through heightened awareness of His love and His trustworthiness; entering into intensely personal communication with God without fear.

There is a tendency in Christian circles to soldier through grief and to minimize wounds and feelings of loss.  An example close at hand comes with my New Year’s Eve story, for right away I was tempted to reassure you that my family is blessed beyond measure and that our tiny disappointments of 2015 were minor compared with those of others we know (and maybe yours).  We minimize our feelings “as if each of us is only allotted a small amount of grief and we had better put it to good use on something really important.”  Allowing ourselves to feel authentically opens our hearts to “see the beauty, feel the joy, hear the laughter, and be touched by God’s innumerable graces that course through our veins and sneak into our circumstances.”

The truth of Broken Hallelujahs is that we are constantly being called upon to hold simultaneously two irreconcilable conditions in our mind and heart:  the way things should be and the way things are on this fallen planet.  Transformation and wholeness will come, but NOT through giving up on the beauty and order that we long for, NOR by stuffing our disappointment.

As a spiritual director, Beth Slevcove is uniquely positioned to share not only her own experience of healing out of grief, but also her observations of others’ creative engagement with loss, their process of making room for hope.  For instance, at the first hint of loss, my mind wants to start launching questions toward the heavens, and this is fine — except that I tend to ask unhelpful “why’s.”  Acknowledging the loss while affirming the presence of God (with me in the vacuum) leads to more helpful “what” questions (“What can I do in this unwanted situation?”); “where” questions (“God, where are you in this?”); and “how” questions (“How are you inviting me to be in this?”).  This kind of fact-finding demonstrates that I am paying attention to what God wants to do with a situation that feels like chaos to me.  Can I trust God’s motives?

Our hearts long for a depth of spiritual discernment that will enable us to hear the voice of God and follow with certainty.   We dread the hurt and disappointment at the end of rabbit trails that we thought were “The Way Home.”  Our broken hallelujahs, sung by and with the suffering during these days of shadows and longing, will find their way to a full-throated “grief-enriched” hallelujah — not in spite of our suffering, but because of it.

//

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 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.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box 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.