Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
Mark Vroegop is on a mission to revive the neglected practice of lament.
In his practical and readable book, Mark Vroegop teaches Christians how to lament. He uses the pattern that the Psalmists often use when they are faced with tough situations: They turn to God; lay out their complaint; ask God for help, and declare their trust in Him.
Vroegop walks the reader through these four steps of lament, explaining how honest, humble, biblical complaint is different from grumbling against God
By looking at the Psalms of lament, Vroegop walks the reader through these four steps of lament, explaining how honest, humble, biblical complaint is different from grumbling against God. He shows readers how to base their supplications on God’s good character, and gives examples of the types of prayers that he has prayed in times of grief and trial: “God, you are good! You are merciful! Act mercifully in this situation!” “God, this is hard. Yet I choose to trust you today”.
So often we are faced with struggles and grief and pain in our Christian lives, and yet the language of lament is missing from our prayers. We might feel uncomfortable telling God that things are hard, as if that were displaying a lack of trust in him. We might feel like we need to handle the situation ourselves, and in our pride, won’t turn to God with our pain. Or maybe we just don’t know how to pray when we are overwhelmed with sorrow or anxiety about a situation.
Lament, born of deep grief and pain, is the cry of one who feels like God doesn’t care or isn’t able to help (and haven’t we all felt that?) Yet it is also a cry to our loving and powerful God. Thus, not only is it useful, it can be transformative for us. It gives God his due praise and glory and honour.
After teaching us how to lament, Vroegop then expounds the Old Testament book of Lamentations through the lens of lamenting. I felt like I was seeing the book of Lamentations in a new light, and appreciating the richness of the whole book, beyond the shining declarations of God’s love and mercy in 3:22-23. I could appreciate more deeply Jeremiah’s lamenting over the sinfulness of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. And I could see more clearly how Jeremiah could feel so utterly devoid of hope when he considers his own situation, and yet still choose to call to mind what God is like, and wait on him.
Vroegop’s book then finishes with some practical applications for lament in our own lives: individually, corporately, and for the world.
Learning more about lament has been quite transformative for me.
I’m not naturally good at this type of prayer, but learning more about lament has been quite transformative for me. I appreciated the reflection questions at the end of each chapter, and I’ve incorporated more lament in my prayers—lament over my own sin and the pain caused by living in a fallen world. I’ve been able to challenge the lie that God doesn’t need or want to hear my pain: God knows how we are feeling and he is big enough and mighty enough to handle our complaints made in faith.
When hard things happen, when things frustrate me, instead of growling in frustration, I’m finding that I’m turning to God. I’m still growling, but I’m growling towards him, and as soon as I do that, I’m calling to mind who he is. I’m asking him for help and seeking him in the situation. I’m genuinely moving from pain to trust, and finding God’s deep mercy in the dark clouds.
Tori will be interviewing Mark Vroegop for “The Lydia Project” podcast in May.