I like the word lament. It conveys seriousness, solitude, and sorrow. More than sadness, a lament is processing grief while remembering who God is. Rarely does anyone lament; instead mourning is oriented towards self, moaning over what was lost within one’s own autonomous domain. Scripture is full of lament, to the point that an entire book is titled about it. Few understand though, the nature of lament and how rightly-postured lament can bring a person towards God.
Author Mark Vroegop shares of the struggles he endured, ones that are both intense and personal by writing Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. But such experience allows him to write from a perspective of one who has been broken and recognizes the hurt that people often endure. With those circumstances comes his understanding of the need for such a book. He writes a book of ten chapters divided into three parts: Part one encourages people to learn to lament by reviewing four Psalms (10, 13, 22, & 77), while part two delves into how one can learn from lament a section he covers by discussing the book of Lamentations; finally the author ends with two chapters of practical application in which he encourages people to live with lament. Each chapter closes with a series of reflection questions that are uniquely written to cause the reader to reflect beyond a surface level.
Vroegop proffers that a biblical definition of lament is: “The honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” Adding to that he stipulates that there are four parts to lament: (1) An address to God, (2)a complaint, (3) requests of God, and (4) expressions of trust and praise to God. With this definition, he deals with some tough issues that Christians face, in which one’s faith can be stretched, tested, and refined. His handling of complex and sensitive areas should be appreciated as he brings about some important truths about lament. Two worth considering over and over is how much faith it really takes to lament, a point that he develops well. Combined with this is his acknowledgment that if God were not a faithful God, there would be no need to lament.
The greatest need of this book is clarity. The author shares some lesser important ideas that warrant more explanation. The biggest area is that the author, in an attempt to add clarity, seems to offer several definitions of lament. While they do not conflict, it confuses the issue some. Further aspects, while non-essential would have been appreciated. The author seems to avoid the issue of sin and its impact and that lack of acknowledgment avoids a certain level of responsibility. Another example is the author’s insistence on the prevalence of the Lord’s silence. He does not seem to address the difference between the Lord’s silence and a person’s perception of that silence. After all, we have the Word which amounts to the Lord’s lack of silence. Therefore, it is not that the author is unbiblical, but he lacks a certain level of clarity.
There is much value in this particular book and the topic is rarely discussed. Yet, the intensity of hurt by the people indicates that there is a need to address lament in the Christian life. The author does a great job at orienting readers towards God and trusting Him. In fact, in the midst of struggle the author leads readers from despair to lament to God. He never leaves this grounding and is quick to bring people towards who God is. Mark Vroegon does a great job at showing how even in the midst of the lament writings, the writers always find confidence in who God is. He goes further by not only grounding his own writings in Scripture, but by directing his readers towards Scripture as well. He assures readers to seek comfort in the Scriptures.
Admittedly, I had some higher expectations of the book, but those expectations were unfair. Regardless, my recent time in the United States with people has shown me there is a great need for us to discuss, teach, and learn from the concept of lament. I have even been able to share the concepts and Scripture from this book repeatedly during the last several weeks as I read through Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. It may not be the premier book to go to when someone is hurting, but it is incredibly helpful.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it