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

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
Publisher and Publication Date: Crossway. 2019.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Suffering. Lament.
Pages: 224.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Christian readers who are going through suffering.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Mark Vroegop’s website
And his Facebook page
Author info: Mark Vroegop (MDiv, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) is the lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a conference speaker, a council member with The Gospel Coalition, a trustee of Cedarville University.

Mark’s Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MarkVroegop.

Mark Vroegop’sGoodreads author page.

For more information at the publisher (includes excerpt from chapter one): Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy.

Summary:
Vroegop explains in the introduction that the aim of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is to help the reader know how to lament their sufferings to God. He explains the reasons why lamenting is important and he teaches how we are to lament.

“Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” Page 26. 

Part 1 Learning to Lament/Psalms of Lament
1. Keep Turning to Prayer/Psalm 77
2. Bring Your Complaints/Psalm 10
3. Ask Boldly/Psalm 22
4. Choose to Trust/Psalm 13
Part 2 Learning from Lament/Lamentations
5. A Broken World and a Holy God/Lamentations 1-2
6. Hope Springs from Truth Rehearsed/Lamentations 3
7. Unearthing Idols/Lamentations 4
8. A Road Map to Grace/Lamentations 5
Part 3 Living with Lament/Personal and Community Applications
9. Making Lament Personal
10. Let Us Lament

The concluding chapters are the conclusion, appendix 1-4, bibliography and indexes.

My Thoughts:
I’m so thankful for authors who write about the hard stuff. I’m thankful for authors who teach it is okay to cry out to God.

What I love about this book: 
Vroegop lets me know from the start: lament is not talked about as it should be in the Christian community. It is a hard topic. It requires transparency. It requires humility to let down our guard and be honest about how we feel to God.
•Lament requires practice. It requires work. Vroegop teaches how to lament.
•Learning to lament is shown in the steps listed in chapter one and expounded on in the book. Vroegop calls it a pattern, and there are four steps in the pattern. He uses the book of Psalms as examples. He emphasizes that “lament is not a simplistic formula.” Lament is a “song” we “sing” to God believing He “will answer and restore.”
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is a beautiful book, because it’s a soothing balm for an aching heart.
•I learned several things personally from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. For example: idols in my life. Waiting is difficult but never a “waste.” God has a plan even during my time of suffering. I’d never considered my lament is a “song I sing.” Lament develops a deeper faith in God.

Part 2 of an interview with Paul Tautges, Author of A Small Book for the Hurting Heart

A Small Book for the Hurting Heart
In A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing, Paul Tautges offers fifty short devotions filled with messages of help, encouragement, and healing. By biblically and transparently addressing the heart and faith struggles in the midst of this grief, Tautges delves deeply, but gently, into the issues of the heart—presenting encouragement and comfort in the character of God.

This small but transformative devotional cultivates anchors of hope, redirecting men and women to the trustworthiness of God who is always for them in Christ. Tautges walks with readers through their grief to see the one who nourishes their faith and heals their soul.

Q: In your book you relentlessly connect God’s comfort to the gospel. Why is that?

In times of loss we desperately need to know that God is near. Nothing meets this need quite like the gospel; that is, the good news about how God drew near to us by sending his only Son to conquer sin, death, and the devil on our behalf. The gospel offers us an everlasting hope which enables us to face the reality of death and other forms of loss head-on. When we gently speak these hope-dispensing truths to ourselves and others, we make loss a servant to God’s purposes by redirecting our focus to matters of eternity.

The strength of God’s comfort does not come from his ability to change our present circumstances (which he can do if he chooses). Rather, God’s comfort comes from his promise to us in Christ, that the glory we will one day share with him far outweighs our present suffering (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:18). Christ-centered comfort is the only true comfort.

Q: Psalm 56:8 tells us that God keeps track of our sorrows and collects our tears. Why are our tears that important to God?

Tears are a gift from God, a means to embracing your pain, releasing emotion, and revealing the depth of your love. Poetically, if God collects all the tears we cry during our life’s journey, if he keeps track of all our sorrows, then surely, he cares about them. He is aware of what causes them. Like it did for King David, this truth encourages us to turn toward God and plead for his sustaining grace.

When something bad happens, we may be tempted to think of God as being distant or even against us. But if we belong to him, through repentant faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing that can ever sepa­rate us from his love: not heartbreak, not dis­tress, not disability, not death, not loss of any kind, nothing (Romans 8:38–39)! He is intimately aware of all of our struggles, and longs to show us the depth of his fatherly love.

Q: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches that blessed are those who mourn. In what ways are we blessed in times of great grief?

Loss has a way of nudging us to look to the Lord, which is a hidden blessing. Typically, however, when grievous things happen, our first reaction is to turn inward instead of upward, to look inside for the strength we need to endure. But, if we’re honest, we are actually really weak people. And that’s ok. It’s actually by God’s design. I like to say that we are dependent by design—God’s design. If we try to endure suffering in our own strength, then surely, we will feel alone.

When we feel alone in our hurts, or even when others have abandoned us, we are easily tempted to think that God has also turned His face away. But he has not! He is present. He is near. Turning to the Lord while embracing the promise of his presence does not come naturally to us. Therefore, we need to renew our mind and let the Holy Spirit re-train our response, so to speak. So, loss can actually become an opportunity for significant spiritual growth in our lives.

Q: One of the titles that the Bible gives to Jesus is the Man of Sorrows. How is seeing Jesus in this way a comfort when we are grappling with grief?

Life can hurt badly. Sometimes we may even feel forsaken and alone. But it comforts us to know this: Jesus experienced those feelings and more. The Father turned away from Jesus when our guilt and sin were placed upon the Lamb of God, and he was punished in our place. Jesus was abandoned, so that you and I would never have to be turned away. Jesus understands our pain, no matter what is causing it. There is no sadness, hurt, or loss he does not know personally.

Jesus wept at his friend’s grave. He was misunderstood and falsely accused. He was betrayed by a so-called friend. He was spat upon by men and women whom he had created. Yet none of this matches the indescribable pain he endured while hanging upon the cross—in our place—becoming the only, fully acceptable sin offering we needed and God’s justice required. While he hung upon the cross, in our place, Jesus was separated from his Father for the first time in eternity. So, if we are tempted to think that no one understands what we’re going through, remember: Jesus understands the agony of loss. He not only says, “I love you,” he says, “I love you, and I know. I know your hurts and losses. And I’m here for you.”

Q: In addition to reading the devotional daily, what else should readers be doing alongside to face their loss and move toward healing?

Grief leaves us vulnerable in so many ways that it can be easy to get stuck; we can allow ourselves to be overtaken by loss in a crippling way. Knowing that this danger exists encourages us to maintain practical, soul-nourishing disciplines, even when our emotions don’t agree. Maintain continual communication with the Lord through listening to him in the Word, talking to him in prayer, and praising him through song. Personally, I find singing privately to the Lord extremely helpful for my times in the valley. You may want to create a worship song playlist to listen to when your heart hurts the most.

In the wake of grief, it’s also really important to stay public; that is, to be careful not to isolate yourself from others. Though it’s normal to need time alone with God, be careful to not isolate yourself. Stay connected to your church family through participation in the public worship service. Yes, you may need to back away, for a time, from some of your service responsibilities at church, but guard your heart from spending too much time alone. As you grieve, be sensitive to how the Lord may give you ways to serve others, even while your pain remains.

Q: What are some of your favorite Bible verses and passages that offer comfort?

Psalm 46:1 is very near the top of my list. It contains one of the most helpful images of God that we find in the Scriptures: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The concept of refuge is this: God is a safe place. He is a shelter in times of trouble. He is a hiding place when the dark storm clouds of loss threaten to defeat our faith or overtake our joy. “God is our refuge” means he is the One to whom we can run when we feel unsettled about the discomforting changes in our pres­ent situation. He is the One to whom we can freely express our fears about all of the un­knowns in our future.

The life of Joseph is also a part of the Bible that I often turn to, especially when suffering doesn’t make any sense. When I read Genesis 39-50, I am repeatedly reminded of how near God was to Joseph at all times. Though Joseph surely felt alone and forsaken at times, God was always with him, and working out his gracious providence. Additionally, I often turn to Romans 8:31–32. Here, the apostle Paul encourages believers with this stabilizing truth:“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him gra­ciously give us all things?”

A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing
By Paul Tautges
March 9, 2020 / Retail Price: $17.99
Print ISBN: 978-1-64507-060-3
RELIGION/Christian Life/Spiritual Growth

Link at Amazon 

All Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway.

Paul Tautges
Paul Tautges, DMin, is pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He is also a recognized leader in biblical counseling and has authored many books on topics related to pastoral ministry, counseling, and parenting.

He is an adjunct college professor and ACBC fellow. In addition to writing regularly on his blog, Counseling One Author, Tautges has written for Crosswalk and Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Tautges has been married to Karen for thirty-two years. Together they cherish their ten children and growing tribe of grandchildren.

Learn more at www.counselingoneanother.com. Tautges can also be found on Twitter (@PaulTautges).

 

(Review) A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing by Paul Tautges

A Small Book for the Hurting Heart
Publisher and Publication Date: New Growth Press. March 9, 2020.
Genre: Christian Nonfiction. Grieving. Suffering. Spiritual Growth.
Pages: 192.
Source: I received a complimentary hard cover copy from New Growth Press, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers who are going through a season of suffering.
Rating: Excellent.

Size of the book:
Width:

4.30 (in)
Height:
6.30 (in)

Amazon link 

Goodreads page for Paul Tautges

To read more information about the book at the publisher: New Growth Press.
To read a sample page:
https://newgrowthpress.com/content/Samples/A-Small-Book-for-the-Hurting-Heart-Sample.pdf

Paul Tautges
Author Info: 
Paul Tautges serves as one of the pastors of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio (east of Cleveland). Prior to accepting the Lord’s call to Cornerstone, he pastored in Wisconsin for 22 years. Paul has been married to Karen since 1986. Together they enjoy their ten children and their spouses, and their growing tribe of grandchildren. He is also an adjunct professor, certified biblical counselor and teaching fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and a council board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Paul has written or edited over 50 books and mini-books.
Paul blogs @ https://counselingoneanother.com
Facebook page @ Counseling One Another
Twitter @PaulTautges

Endorsements: 
“When we hurt and ask God ‘why?,’ we often are not looking for answers. Rather, our hearts are looking for comfort, encouragement, and Fatherly assurance that our world is not spinning out of control. In his new work, A Small Book for the Hurting Heart, my friend Paul Tautges points the reader to helpful insights from the best Answer of all, the Lord Jesus. Every page is filled with bite-sized wisdom from the Word of God, providing healing hope for every heart that hurts. I heartily endorse this small but power-packed book!”
~ Joni Eareckson Tada, “Joni and Friends International Disability Center”

“Grief is sometimes too burdensome to search for direction and comfort in Scripture. We want the encouragement of Scripture but don’t have the energy to find just the right passages. In this little book, Paul has found those right passages and brought us into them so they can be brought into us.”
~ Edward T. Welch, author of A Small Book for the Anxious Heart; faculty, “Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation”

“How often I have wished for this kind of resource to share with a friend in the throes of grief. A wise, seasoned pastor and counselor, Paul Tautges comes alongside the person in pain with short, encouraging, grace-filled reflections from God’s Word. These meditations will lift up weary hearts and tear-stained faces and help them find compassion and hope in the face of Christ.”
~ Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Author; founder and host of “Revive Our Hearts”

Summary: 
Grief may threaten to overtake us or destroy our joy. In this powerful devotional book, men and women will see Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, who is well-acquainted with grief and sadness.
Author and pastor Paul Tautges offers our comforting High Priest, sharing how the Holy Spirit ministers to our hurting heart through the healing balm of God’s Word graciously applied to life’s wounds.
By Biblically and transparently addressing the heart and faith struggles in the midst of this grief, A Small Book for the Hurting Heart delves deeply, but gently, into the issues of the heart—presenting encouragement and comfort in the character of God revealed in his Word.
This small but transformative devotional cultivates anchors of hope, redirecting men and women to the trustworthiness of God who is always for us in Christ. Because all of God’s promises are Yes in Christ, Tautges walks with readers through their grief to see the one who nourishes our faith and heals our soul.
In fifty brief readings, your hurting heart will find spiritual help, encouragement, and healing as you experience the comfort of God.

My Thoughts:
I consider it a blessing when a book I’m reading for review is meeting me just where I need it. Another words, A Small Book for the Hurting Heart is applicable for my life today. Consider page 13, “We are in a strange place.” I am living in a strange place in time because of the COVID-19. The generation closest to mine that has lived through a pandemic is my grandparents, who were all children during the Spanish Flu of 1918. I am living in a strange and surreal situation. I am so thankful to be in my own home, with food to eat, and with family I love.
The book is primarily written to readers who are going through a season of grieving and suffering. For example, the death of a loved one. However, I pulled several thoughts out of the book that spoke to me. For example, “Don’t let fear turn you away from God.” Page 13. This teaching is taught in the book several times. Don’t turn away from God and towards the fear and suffering. It is so easy to focus on the fear or hardship. Tautges reminds me to focus on God. Another big teaching that’s helped. “My friend, I don’t want you to merely survive your season of suffering. I want you to thrive.” Page 111. How do I thrive during this ordeal of stress? I write in a gratitude journal. I’m on number 100. I write down simple things. These are things that are often taken for granted. For example, the smell of banana bread when it’s baking or the sound of birds singing.

Additional reasons why I love this little book:
•It’s small but packed with valuable help.
•It’s a book of comfort, encouragement, and compassion.
•It’s divided in to 50 daily reads. Most are 3 pages long.
•I loved the Bible verses directing me to read from God’s Word about Tautges’s teaching.
•Tautges gives applicable ideas for me. For example: “Are you looking to your eternal inheritance with eyes of faith? Read about your eternal inheritance in Ephesians 1:11-18, and then take a few moments to thank God for His watchful care.”
•The book is perfect for a new Christian or a person who has been a Christian a long time.

Bible verse link is to Bible Gateway.

 

(Review) The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

The Problem of Pain

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper One. 1940. 1996. 2012.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 162.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon 

Clives Staples Lewis (1898-1963)

 

“If God is love, He is, by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” Page 33.

To read a C. S. Lewis book, I have to have my thinking cap on. His books are not the type to skim over. They are not the type to passively read. They require a particular skill: thinking. And I love to think. A friend recently told me, “You think to hard about things.” I chuckled. It is true. I love to think; and further, to think about the hard things in life.

Summary:
In brief, “The Problem of Pain” addresses suffering.
Why God allows suffering?
Why do bad things happen?
What happened to cause suffering?

My Thoughts:
This is a beautiful book. At first glance, that statement seems odd, out of place. We expect life to be pretty. We expect dreams and desires to be fulfilled. We want success. We want Christmas morning everyday. But life is complicated and it is messy. Life is filled with accidents, sickness, and people who break promises.
“The Problem of Pain” is a book of comfort. Not because Lewis makes me feel all warm and toasty. But he reminds me this life is not all there is, there is an eternal life beyond this temporary, transient life.

Some of my favorite quotes:

 

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. Page 39.

But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Page 92.

And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment-an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself. A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun. Page 156-157.

All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exists for us, but we for it. Page 158-159.