Learning to Lament: Giving Voice to the Winter Christian Experience

Instead of search terms this Friday I thought I'd point you to a article I wrote for The Table blog hosted by Biola University's Center for Christian Thought.

The post is entitled Learning to Lament: Giving Voice to the Winter Christian Experience and summarizes some material from Chapter 6 from my book The Authenticity of Faith regarding the Summer and Winter Christian faith experience.

In the article I also share some of the work done by my ACU colleague Glenn Pemberton in his book Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms. Glenn just published a follow-up book After Lament: Psalms for Learning to Trust Again.

From the article:
The point in drawing your attention to this comparison is that many churches are ill-equipped to give voice to the Winter Christian experience. Our worship, to make this point sharp, isn’t biblical enough. And in failing to give voice to lament, as we see with the Psalms, we’ve given our faith communities an unrealistic expectation of what it feels like to be in relationship with God.

And from a spiritual formation perspective this is problematic for two inter-related reasons:

1. When we fail to give voice to complaint, doubt and lament these experiences become internalized and privatized. We begin to feel alone and isolated in our spiritual struggles.

2. When we fail to give voice to the Winter Christian experience we begin to pathologize doubt and lament. We send the message that lament and complaint is a spiritual failure, even a sin.

This creates a toxic mix...
 Click here to read the full article.

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3 thoughts on “Learning to Lament: Giving Voice to the Winter Christian Experience”

  1. Martin E. Marty's book, A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart, is also excellent for believers whose faith is being challenged by adversity and pain.

    But when I think of LAMENT, I think of the movie, Tender Mercies, in which Mac Sledge, a down and out country singer, who has just begun to start a new, clean life with a loving wife and admiring stepson, loses his daughter in an auto accident. In a scene in which he is working in the yard with his wife, he makes the sad, yet realistic admission, "I don't trust happiness. I never did; I never will".

    What I find telling is that while he had been baptized in his wife's church, he does not make this confession to the minister or before a Bible class; but only to his wife, and even then, he sounds totally alone. However, a couple of scenes later, he is playing catch with his stepson, looking very content for that particular moment.

    So you are left with two Mac Sledges; one who loves again, and the other who accepts his loneliness when it engulfs him. And as much as the church played a part in the beginning creating a bond with his new family, you see him in the end, deep within his soul, going it alone. Many of us are Mac Sledge. Some of us have one to make our confession to, but too many do not.

  2. I learned a lot from the psyc professors while at ACU, but one of the things I am most grateful for is the Winter Christian. It was normalizing and gave me words to so much of my experience as a Christian.

  3. Thanks so much. I am an ardent admirer of both Mother Teresa and "Tender Mercies," one of my favorite movies. Just in case y'all don't remember here are the lyrics to "Wings of a Dove," a song that I sing and that has help sustain me through some hard times, along with Mother T's diary. Blessings.

    When troubles surround us, when evils come

    The body grows weak

    The spirit grows numb

    When these things beset us, God doesn't forget us

    He sends us His love

    On the wings of a snow-white dove

    He sends His pure sweet love

    A sign from above

    On the wings of a dove


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