Should We Be Complaining More Often?
By Zach Nerison
This is a time of high anxiety, many are suffering, and many are in pain. In times like these you often hear people quote passages like 1 Peter 5:6-7, which says, “Humble yourselves… casting all your anxieties on (God), because he cares for you.” We hear this, maybe we think about it, but often we don’t really apply it. Practically speaking, how do we, “cast our anxieties” on God? An excellent resource for answering this question is Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Pastor Mark Vroegop. This book is a practical guide that teaches the reader how to cast their cares upon God through the biblical practice of lament.
What is in the book?
Lament is a foreign idea to many. Thus, Vroegop goes to great lengths in the introductory material to define lament for the reader. In the narrowest sense it means, “…a loud cry, a howl, or a passionate expression of grief… a prayer in pain that leads to trust.” Later Vroegop expands upon this commenting on the function of lament in the life of the believer, writing, “ Lament is how you live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty.”
Vroegop establishes that Lament is a thoroughly biblical practice. He demonstrates this by offering the reader a thorough analysis of the book of Psalms and Lamentations. Vroegop’s intentions in writing are evident throughout the book. First, Vroegop wants the reader to learn the lessons which arise from laments found throughout the bible. Secondly, Vroegop wants his readers to come away not only with information about lament but with the confidence to practice lament both privately and within their community.
Why should you read this book?
Dark Clouds and Deep Mercy will show you how to lament. The best feature of Dark Clouds and Deep Mercy is that it gets practical. In part one Vroegop focuses on sharing with the reader the practical 4-part pattern of lament found in most of the Psalms of Lament. Step one: turn to God, we should keep praying even amidst trying circumstances. Step two: offer your complaints to God, we should not give God the silent treatment, rather we should bring our frustrations and questions to God. Step three: make a bold request, ask God for help based upon his character and what he has promised. Step four: choose trust, make a declaration of what you know to be true even when the present suffering makes that truth seem impossible. This pattern is practical and will be helpful to those who are suffering, in pain, or for those looking for a way to help others process trying times.
Dark Clouds and Deep Mercy will challenge you to wrestle with God. With surges of violence, rioting, double hurricanes, a worldwide pandemic and so on, you might be wrestling with questions like: “if God is good and all powerful why are the wicked not brought to justice?” or “how can God allow human suffering?” Vroegop makes it clear, the writers of the bible wrestled with these very same questions. Vroegop will challenge you, page after page, to follow the psalmist’s example and ask these questions rather than avoiding them.
Dark Clouds and Deep Mercy will help you recognize that our communities need lament. Vroegop argues that when Churches practice lament together it brings an awareness of the pain, suffering, and injustice being experienced by the individual to the attention of their entire community. This in turn allows their community to know how each individual can be supported. Lament then is critical, it helps the church community more effectively fulfill Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 12:15 to, “weep with those who weep.”
If you are trying to connect with God in these overwhelming times, Dark Clouds and Deep Mercy, will not disappoint you. You will get an in-depth look at how to practice lament and in turn, you will know how to cast your own anxieties on the Lord. Knowing how to do this, will help you better care for those who are struggling with pain and difficult questions.