The Red Couch: PROPHETIC LAMENT Discussion

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For a good portion of my life, I didn’t think that lament belonged in the church.

Christians, I believed, were happy-clappy, smiling-all-the-time, “I’ve got the river of life flowing out of me!” type of people. As I’ve written for SheLoves before, the unfortunate result of this misconception was that I didn’t cry for almost seven years.

But then, dam of all dams, I broke. I wailed. I pounded my fists and cried big tears and I began to admit that brokenness existed within me and outside of me, and that this brokenness was not necessarily a bad thing. This brokenness meant that I was letting myself feel the beauty and the pain all around me.

Perhaps for the very first time, I began to see my desperate need for lament, just as I began to see the corporate need for lament that exists for followers of Jesus.

Tears, I realized, were a good and holy thing.

Is it the same for you? Have your tears been a holy balm of healing for you and the world around you?

With all that’s going on in our world today – continued hate crimes toward our brothers and sisters of color, escalating conflict, an overwhelming refugee crisis and for Americans, a world leader whom many of us are terrified to see in office–there exists a need for corporate and individual lament.

That’s why I’m eager for us to enter into discussion with each other through Soong-Chan Rah’s latest book, Prophetic Lament.

“In the midst of a crisis,” Rah writes, “Lamentations points toward God and acknowledges his sovereignty regardless of the circumstances” (43). We, collectively as human beings across the world, are in the midst of crisis. We need not pry the headlines of the morning paper or our latest social media feeds in order to see the unrest alive and well around each one of us.

What would it look like for us to be a people marked by lament?

What would it look like for us, as sisters united by Christ, to voice holy complaints and protests and grief aloud, to each other and to the world around us?

More than anything, as Rah walks the reader through the book of Lamentations (further buffering a biblical argument), we are given permission to lament. We are encouraged to deal with the reality of the world around us, with the reality of brokenness and pain and injustice. We are begged to bring untold stories to light (p. 50), and to not ignore pain and suffering and death any longer–but with compassion and justice, we are exhorted to step into action. We cannot be bound by fenced apathy any longer.

But here’s the thing: “We” does not mean that we as individuals all do our own thing from the comfort of [our] separate dwelling places. “We” means that we become we, doing this we together, for “… suffering is endured by the entire community. It is a communal experience” (p. 101). To be blunt, for those of us who are white, this may be a tricky thing to step into; a shift from the personal to the corporate is required, which may be far from the individualized worship experience of the white evangelical church.

How has lament figured its way into your faith community?

Regardless of where you are now and of where you come from, let’s agree to move forward together: when we lament, when we appropriately respond to suffering, when we recognize that God is sovereign, when we include and feel and empathize with the voice of those who are suffering, we become hope-filled truth tellers.

And I don’t know about you, but when the “when” of lament comes–for it most certainly will–I want to be a hope-filled truth teller.

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QUESTIONS:

What has this book called out of you?

Has anything surprised you?

Do you have a quote or idea from this book that you keep chewing on?

We’d love to hear! If you haven’t read the book yet, no problem. Join us as we think about lament together.

Be sure to catch the INTRODUCTION post to Prophetic Lament by Ruthie Johnson here. You may also want to check out Kelley Nikondeha‘s January post on When We Lament.

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In March, we will be reading Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story Of A Palestinian Christian Working For Peace In Israel, by Elias Chacour.

See our 2017 Red Couch Book Selections here. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

 

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Cara Meredith
Cara is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco Bay Area. She is chipping away at her first book when not searching for the world’s greatest chips and guacamole. She loves people, food, reading, the great outdoors and her family. She and the HBH (Hot Black Husband), try to dance nightly and live life to the fullest with their two young sons.
Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith

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Cara Meredith
  • I was surprised at Professor Rah’s assertion that God’s voice is strangely absent from the book of Lamentations emphasizing the need for leaving space for the voice of suffering to be heard in our day. There is a place and time for sitting with the cries of distress, allowing them to resonate before “moving to the psalms of praise.”
    And I thought that his point about our delusion of becoming God’s chosen “fixers” was very good. Just as Lamentations 4 chronicles the downfall of all Jerusalem’s cherished symbols of success, God may once again choose to work along paths that have nothing to do with human achievement.
    I’m a 3 with a 4 wing, so lament is my friend, because it lets me say what I see. The realities that surround us on this planet call for both celebration and lament. A theology that does not integrate the two is insufficient.
    Cara, thanks for taking on the challenge of this important book (so beautifully) and for emphasizing the need for hope in our truth-telling.

    • carameredith.com

      Thanks for your encouragement, Michele. This book has been so life-giving for me as well – I think I’ve quoted it, talked about it and written about it more than any other book as of late!

  • i am working my way slowly through this…. There is so much in it, I feel like I need to read it once through before taking a pen to underline everything. Of course, I think it’s timely right now. But really, it’s been timely for decades. We are missing out on a deep relationship with a redemptive God because we aren’t making space for lament – and the joy that comes as a result.

    • YES!
      I’ve been thankful for this group’s encouragement to go back over the book again. By re-reading all my underlinings, I am seeing that concepts I had read have really found their way into my thinking in ways that I had not been aware of.

      • carameredith.com

        Michele, you are so wise!

    • carameredith.com

      EXACTLY. I am so glad that THIS book was picked for this exact time.

  • I’m still in the middle of this, but I had hoped to be done by the time this post went up! I feel like I’m underlining every other line! I wanted to share this sermon by Eric Mason that he did on lamentations. He asks some people from the (African American) congregation to come up and share their lament at the end of the service. It’s heavy and I was definitely driving my minivan through the mountains with tears blurring my view, but it is SO GOOD, too. There’s something so healing about this idea and I think you’re right, Cara, that the white evangelical church could really benefit from learning this practice.Here’s the link to the sermon (which is part of a longer series called #WokeChurch I would also recommend!): https://www.acast.com/epiphanyfellowshipsermons/-wokechurch-lamentations-3-1-18 I may chime back in later on when I finish the book!;-)

    • carameredith.com

      Oh cool – thanks for sharing, Leslie! Rah definitely gets into the need for the white church to enter lament, so it’s definitely not just my personal feeling. 🙂

  • Aria M.

    It is hard to linger with grief, whether it be my own or others. I’ll get real for a moment:
    A few years ago, I was burnt out and depressed, faced with loneliness that physically hurt. One night, as I was praying, I remembered that I had always been told to praise God even when in pain, so sobbing, I stood up in my room and attempted to sing up-beat praise songs. I thought that was what I was supposed to do because lament had never been in the vocabulary of my circles, but looking back, it was just more painful.

    Reading this book, however, provides the vocabulary and permission (or even mandate) to mourn and linger with grief, individually and corporately. I’m so thankful that God is near to the brokenhearted, oppressed, and suffering, and I hope to be as well.

    Here is a question I’ve been considering: How do individuals like myself who come from a majority celebration-oriented church culture advocate for the corporate space needed for lament and grief, practically speaking?

  • Pingback: where in I point you to a couple of posts at She Loves Magazine - Cara Meredith()

  • Pamela Rapelje-Trapp

    Am in the middle of a study call A Sacred Sorrow by musician Michael Card, if anyone is interested ina good Bible study about this