Links for the Weekend (6/12/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

George Floyd and Me

Hip-hop artist and author Shai Linne has written a moving reflection on the death of George Floyd. This horrific incident, and the subsequent and ongoing protests demanding equal treatment and justice for Black Americans, have caused many Christians to think about racism in this country. Learning from and listening to an article like this is a great place to start.

But one of the painful things I’ve discovered over the last eight years or so since Trayvon Martin’s killing is that it’s possible to agree on those things and yet be in a completely different place when it comes to the issue of racial injustice. Just because I’ve made an intentional decision to focus on that which is “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3) doesn’t mean there aren’t other important things that need to be addressed in the church. It also doesn’t mean that being a Christian has exempted me from the reality of being a black man in America and all the stigma that comes with it.

Say Something

After listening to the concerns and experiences of our Black neighbors, what should we do next? We feel an urgency to act, but how? Ed Welch offers four brief places to begin.

We are left with a question: What can we do? Indeed, we are called to “maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed” (Ps 82:3). But what does that mean for those of us who rarely see such oppression with our own eyes, and live at a distance from it?

On the News

Because of all that is going on in the country, many of us are consuming more news and information than ever. Is this wise? Andy Crouch explains why, in times of crisis, we need less news, not more.

I am not saying that it is wrong to be informed about what is happening in the world beyond our immediate view, which is what the news can provide. I am saying that we can be informed, in all the ways we need to be, in much less time and with much less damage to our souls than happens when we spend hours a day during a crisis compulsively reloading web pages in search of more “news.”

Understanding & Lamenting Racial Injustice: CAPC Staff Recommendations

It’s not hard to find reading recommendations on the internet. (You’re reading one right now!) But if you are feeling the grief of injustice deep in your soul and you’d like to see/hear/read more about it, here is a list compiled by the staff of Christ and Pop Culture. You’ll find books, videos, songs, and movies recommended there to help you “listen, lament, and contribute to a new story.”


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Learning to Lament

What should we do with our sadness?

If life was one sunny day after another, this question would hardly make sense. But in these bodies, we know grief; we feel it in our bones. We see the storms. At times we feel like opening the spigot and filling buckets with our tears.

Unfortunately, many churches don’t make it easy for Christians to admit their sadness. “How are you?” greetings have only one acceptable response: “Fine, thanks.” Beyond individual relationships, the community activities and liturgies of some churches have no space for sorrow. Every face wears a smile and every song is jubilant.

This need not be the case! There is a precious, biblical category of prayer known as lament. When we ignore this tool God has given, we miss a rich opportunity to trust the Lord and lean on him in difficult times.

Four Steps to Lament

Mark Vroegop’s book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, is an exploration of Biblical lament. Vroegop is a pastor at a church in Indiana, and he and his wife were awakened to lament when one of their children was stillborn. He writes with depth and wisdom that come only from experience.

Vroegop defines lament as “a prayer in pain that leads to trust” (page 28).

You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. The space between brokenness and God’s mercy is where this song is sung. Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise. (Vroegop, page 28)

The first half of the book explores the four elements of lament, the first of which is turning to God. This may sound too basic to mention when it comes to a type of prayer, but Vroegop makes a compelling case.

To pray in pain, even with its messy struggle and tough questions, is an act of faith where we open up our hearts to God. Prayerful lament is better than silence. However, I’ve found that many people are afraid of lament. They find it too honest, too open, or too risky. But there’s something far worse: silent despair. Giving God the silent treatment is the ultimate manifestation of unbelief. (Vroegop, pages 31–32)

After turning to God, the second step of lament is to complain. Yes, there is a godly form of complaint! It is found throughout the Psalms of lament.

If you’re going to offer a complaint to God, it must be done with a humble heart. As I said before, I don’t think there is ever a place to be angry with God. However, I do think it’s permissible to ask pain-filled questions as long as you’re coming in humility. Proud, demanding questions from a heart that believes it is owed something from God will never lean into true lament. (Vroegop, page 52)

A complaint is never an end in itself. Indeed, “we bring our complaints to the Lord for the purpose of moving us toward him” (Vroegop, page 54). The third ingredient of lament is asking God. Specifically, we call “upon God to act in accordance with his character” (Vroegop, page 57). The question of why moves to the question of who. If we have confidence in who God is and what he has promised, we can ask him boldly to intervene and help.

After asking God to work, we come to the final step of lament. We trust. We hold onto God as we wait for deliverance.

Lament helps us to practice active patience. Trust looks like talking to God, sharing our complaints, seeking God’s help, and then recommitting ourselves to believe in who God is and what he has done—even as the trial continues. (Vroegop, page 74)

Laments in the Bible

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is packed with Scripture. Each of the first four chapters—one is devoted to each of the four steps of lament—takes a close look at a Psalm of lament. (Mark Vroegop reports that more than one third of the Psalms are laments!)

In the next part of the book, Vroegop walks his reader through the book of Lamentations. While not an exegesis or commentary, he highlights important themes from the book. Vroegop shows us that lament is thoroughly biblical and teaches us what we can learn through the practice of lamenting.

The last part of the book is dedicated to application. Vroegop suggests specific ways that lamenting might take hold for individuals and churches.

When Lament is No More

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy was a valuable book for me to read. I saw that lament is a biblical prayer category about which I’ve been ignorant, and I now understand how valuable the discipline and practice of lament can be for Christians.

Perhaps most importantly, this book has changed my prayer life. I now have some tools for mourning before the Lord and crying out to him in pain and sadness. Mark Vroegop has taught me this is a normal—even an essential—part of being a Christian.

However, lament will not last forever. Though praise and thanksgiving will continue through the ages, there will be no occasion for lament in heaven. Ultimately, lament points us to the sure, curse-free future God has in store for his children. Though lament may start in despair, because of the work of Jesus, it ends in hope.

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Links for the Weekend (4/3/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

It Takes Theology to Lament

A lament is a biblical prayer that is sadly out of favor these days. But it is just the type of prayer we need when things are not right with us or in the world. Mark Vroegop writes about the theology that is needed in order to lament.

Most laments contain four elements: turn, complain, ask, and trust. Each is designed to move the weary-hearted saint toward a renewal of hope in God’s character, even when dark clouds linger. Turning to God in prayer is the first step. It refuses to allow a deadly prayerlessness to develop. Complaining lays out our hurts in blunt but humble terms. We tell God what is wrong and the depth of our struggles. Asking reclaims the promises of God’s word that seem distant, and it calls upon him to intervene. Finally, all laments end in trust. This is where biblical lament is designed to lead – a faith-filled renewal of what we know to be true.

COVID-19: Living by Probabilities or Providence?

If you’ve been paying a lot of attention to the coronavirus-related statistics in the news recently, this article might be for you. Mike Emlet encourages us to turn our gaze (and our trust) to the Lord.

Sit with these glorious realities for a minute. Read through them slowly. Let them soak into your soul. We don’t live by probabilities and chance. We live under the loving, wise, and sovereign rule of our Creator and Redeemer God. The result of that is true hope, which steers clear of both a naïve optimism or a resigned pessimism.

A Prayer for Working from Home

This is exactly what the title says. You may not think you need such a prayer, but if you’re not used to working from home, I suggest you take a look.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.