Saturday, May 18, 2019

Book Review: Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop

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BOOK review
Started on: 21 April 2019
Finished on: 25 April 2019

Title: Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament
Author: Mark Vroegop
Publisher: Crossway Books
Pages: 224 pages / 226 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication: 2019
Price: Rp 235,822 (https://www.bookdepository.com/)

Rating: 5/5
*This e-book was received as a review copy from Crossway
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"When the circumstances of life create dark clouds, I hope you'll come to embrace lament as a divinely given liturgy leading you to mercy. This historic song gives you permission to vocalize your pain as it moves you toward God-centered worship and trust. Lament is how you live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God's sovereignty."
In this book, Mark Vroegop introduced us to a deeper understanding about lament. It presents biblical guidelines for bringing honest complaint and bold petition before God and for choosing to steadfastly trust in the One whose mercies never end. But so many Christians these days neglect the importance of lament. We need to recover the practice of honest spiritual struggle that gives us permission to vocalize our pain and wrestle with our sorrow. Lament avoids trite answers and quick solutions, progressively moving us toward deeper worship and trust. Through the psalms of lament and the book of Lamentations, Mark Vroegop invites us to learn how to grieve, struggle, and experience the grace and mercy God offers in the darkest moments of our lives.

"I would eventually learn—mainly through Lamentations and Psalms—that nothing is more freeing than knowing God understands. When we are in pain, God feels the sting in his chest. Our frustrations and questions do not fluster him. He knows all about them. He wrote the book on them. More astoundingly, he invites us to come and air our grievances before him."
"Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust."
This book came at the perfect time for me. Not too long ago, I was reading my Bible and came across a Psalm that is filled with groaning and complaints to God. At the time, I was really confused and started questioning why the Bible includes this kind of psalm. I enjoyed Psalms that are full of thanksgiving and praises to God, but these Psalms somehow made me feel slightly uncomfortable. And so when I started reading this book, everything made sense. It's as if God himself is answering my questions through this book. I started to have a deeper understanding about lament, and how it helps us to lean on to God's mercy when our lives are filled with dark clouds. I am truly grateful for this book and to Mark Vroegop for writing it. Through this book, I learned to lament and how to live with it—both for myself and also with others who are struggling with pain or grief.
"However, I've found that many people are afraid of lament. They find it too honest, too open, or too risky. But there's something far worse: silent despair. Giving God the silent treatment is the ultimate manifestation of unbelief."
"You need to know that lament does not always lead to an immediate solution. It does not always bring a quick or timely answer. Grief is not tame. Lament is not a simplistic formula. Instead, lament is the song you sing believing that one day God will answer and restore. Lament invites us to pray through our struggle with a life that is far from perfect."
There are three parts in this book: the first one is about Learning to Lament, the second one is Learning from Lament, and the last one is Living with Lament. In the first part, Mark Vroegop gives us four simple words to help us remember the steps of lament: turn, complain, ask, and trust. He also addressed that many people are afraid of lament, but silent despair is actually worse than that. So he encouraged us to keep turning to prayer, no matter how difficult our situation is—and it's okay to complain to God. The writer emphasized that he's not giving us permission to vent self-centered rage towards God, but there is a place for a kind of complaining that is biblical—because some parts of the Bible (for example in the psalms of lament and the book of Lamentations) included complaints to God. This doesn't encourage us to be angry with God but it's permissible to ask pain-filled questions as long as we're coming in humility. That completely changed my perspective because I've been a believer who tried my best not to complain to God even when the situation is not in my favor. The beautiful thing about lament in the Bible is the importance of the word "but, however, and yet". This statement made me realize that the laments started with complain and questions but always end in reverence and trust towards God.
 
In the second part, one of the strongest reminder for me was the fact that sufferings makes us realize that we need to always depend on God. Suffering—at every level—is an opportunity to learn, but we must be willing to listen. This section really encouraged me and reminded me that our hope is not in a change of circumstances, but in the promise of a God who never stops being merciful. I'm beginning to learn to say that even though I don't know what God is doing something or why, I'm going to trust that God is God and I'm not. Although it was a hard pill to swallow, I think that's the truth we need to remind ourselves about. Pain is an uncomfortable but helpful teacher.
"In lament psalms the word but marks a critical and consistent turn toward trust. Michael Jinkins suggests that words such as but and however are found in every lament because lamenting trust is not merely a belief or conviction; it is trusting despite what circumstances might lead one to believe. Words like but, however, and yet mark the intentional shift from the cause of the lament to trusting in who God is, what he has done, and the promise of the Scripture." 
"We are never more aware of our frailty than when hardship comes our way. This is one of the blessings of suffering if we allow lament to lead us. The various trials of life can become a platform to reaffirm our dependence upon the Lord."
The last thing I want to share is about living with lament—both personally and with others. I am one of those people who always feels lost whenever someone shared a painful experience or a hurt that they're going through. The third part of this book teaches me not to shy away from the tension, because restoration doesn't come to those who live in denial. Most of the time, our automatic response whenever someone shared a struggle is: "Don't worry, it's going to be okay." but disregarding feelings doesn't always help. What we have to do is actually walk into those dark moments and guide them in talking to God about their pain and leading them to trust. It was something that I was able to immediately practice afterwards when I accidentally met a friend who was grieving. Even though the situation may look bad and God doesn't seem good, all we have to do is trust His heart.

My perspectives about lament changed a lot and I'm really grateful for the truth that Mark Vroegop shared in this book. I absolutely love the writing and all the Bible reference included made it easier to understand. Each chapter is concluded with a set of Reflection Questions that allows us to think back on what we have learned and also allowed us to start practicing lament. At the end of the book, there are some helpful references that categorize laments into categories (personal, corporate, repentant, etc.) and also a worksheet to help us learn how to lament. I really recommend this book not only to those who feel like they're currently under dark clouds, but also for those who are eager to learn about lament to help others. May this book helps us all to discover the grace of lament.
"You see, I knew the assurances of God's love in passages like Romans 8 and others. I believed somehow God would work out everything for his good purposes. I never doubted that.
Yet my grief was not tame.
It was vicious."
"The aim of this book is to help you discover the grace of lament—to encourage you to find deep mercy in dark clouds."
by.stefaniesugia♥ .
 

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