We all suffer and sometimes it doesn't get better. Where there seems to be no end to the pain and loss, how do we express ourselves to God? Pemberton wants to help us live as people of faith, live with God, in less than ideal circumstances.
He believes the time has come to hear and restore the biblical language of lament. Christians are ready for the words to express their pain. “God invites his people to speak the truth of their lives, their pain and their confusion to the One who can do something about it.” (33)
He investigates the concept of lament in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms. He also reviews the near extinction of lament in our modern hymns and songs.
There is a close look at lament, its tone and content. The problems that led the psalmists to lament are uncovered. The psalmists' authentic thanksgiving is noted. The psalmists end in gratitude, even in the midst of their circumstances.
Pemberton concludes that somewhere along the way the church has lost its way regarding lament. He ends his book with possible steps in the right direction, recovering the practice of lament. Ways are considered for individuals and churches to implement the practice.
I was struck by how honest the language is in the psalms. There is no attempt to deny the hardship. I was surprised to find that the largest group of psalms are lament (40%). I was also surprised to find that the language of lament is structured and controlled. Following the contours of lament provides a way to fully express what we were already thinking. Pemberton knows what he is writing about. He has experienced lengthy chronic pain. He writes with his own experience of expressing his his thoughts to God, in whom he has faith.
Pemberton has designed this book for personal reading and for group use (discussion questions are in an Appendix). The work may be a little to academic in style for some. I do think pastors would gain a great deal by reading this book and incorporating lament into the practice of their church.
Glenn Pemberton teaches Old Testament at Abilene Christian University. He has been a preacher for over twenty years.
Abilene Christian University Press, 252 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from ACU Press for the purpose of this review.