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Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms Paperback – June 10, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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From the Inside Flap

Many writers have considered the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Pemberton, however, sets this philosophical issue aside to consider the practical. How do believers live out faith in prolonged seasons of pain and loss?

How can we live with God when it hurts and continues to hurt? Drawing from his own daily struggle with chronic pain and years of reading and teaching the Psalms, Pemberton leads readers on a quest to recover a lost ancient resource

for people of faith the language of lament. The book of Psalms brings out the reality and presence of lament in ancient days, indeed laments make up a third of the Psalter. Through the exploration and study of imagery and language,

Pemberton revitalizes this forgotten tool to rejuvenate those who seek to connect with God in times of struggle.

About the Author

GLENN PEMBERTON teaches Old Testament at Abilene Christian University, including a popular undergraduate course on Israel's wisdom and devotional literature. As a preacher among churches for over twenty years and a student curious about many things, Glenn looks for the connections between God's created order and a life lived by faith. He earned his PhD from the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology. He has published various essays on Proverbs and one book, When God Calls (21st Century Christian, 2007). Glenn and his wife Dana live in Abilene, Texas.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Abilene Christian University Press (June 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891124004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891124009
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Our response to storms, literal or metaphoric, reveals much about us.... When a problem or crisis erupts, we want an immediate fix. We speak of `getting through it,' `getting past it,' and `seeing the light at the end of the tunnel' from which we will emerge stronger and better for the experience. So we pray for healing (now) and respond to those who are ill by asking if they are feeling better (yet). We share the American dream of being able to triumph over any obstacle and live above every circumstance. And all this self-talk is fine as long as we really do get better or find a happy resolution.

"But what if we or those we love don't get better? What if the storm never lets up? What if the issue is not about how to `get through it' or `getting to the light at the end of the tunnel' because this tunnel has no end point short of death? What if God chooses not to answer our prayers for healing, for a better marriage, for a way to pay the bills, or for a way out of the mess that is my life? What then? In my experience, when there is no end to the pain or the loss, we simply do not know how to respond to ourselves, to others, or to God. And, in these cases, even the most well-intentioned and sound theological-philosophical explanations about why bad things happen in God's world don't matter because they do nothing to help me live now; they do not stop my ain or teach me how to live within circumstances that do not change. At least for now, I don't care why this storm is flooding my life. I just need someone to teach me how to swim." (22)

These words from the opening chapter of Glenn Pemberton's masterful Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms speak to the hard reality of life that many, if not most, streams of popular Christianity seem to deny.
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The author's honesty and humility bind together a wonderful and yet very challenging journey through the lament psalms. But more than a book about the psalms, it is a book about honest, deep, and faithful relationship with God. There were times I laughed, and many more times I cried. I had to face my own pride and I was encouraged that whatever waters may arise in my life are waters that I do not have to traverse alone. More than anything, however, I was challenged to not let silence rest as my final word to God, and it will not be so.

The writing style and content are great fits for either college classrooms, small groups, and even (as in my case), very personal and painful journeys.
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Format: Paperback
Pemberton provides an approach to lamenting much needed by today's congregations, especially among the increasingly shallow forms of "Praise and Worship"-only gatherings. "P&W" formats serve a purpose and may be beneficial, but they do just that--serve a purpose. And so with public and corporate lament, a purpose is served. Incorporating "all" forms of worship and God-talk are important for all churches, and in their relevant time and place.

Pemberton writes, "If what I have found in university classrooms and churches is a reliable indicator, believers are aching for words to express the realities of their lives, to speak the truth to God instead of putting on a charade of repetitive and empty praise clichés that ignore or deny the relentless storms" (25). Yet these words, words of lament, have been pushed out of our gatherings, and ultimately our vocabulary, by years of insistence on being "joyful" and "happy" Christians who approach times of hardship with phrases like, "God has a plan," "It'll all work out," and, "Blue skies and rainbows . . ." These may be true, but may also likely prove to be utterly unhelpful in times of suffering. Many biblical texts, in both the Old and New Testaments, help us through these times and give us language to talk to God and help us through. Pemberton, does a fantastic job using the book of Psalms, as well as other Scripture, narrative, and personal experience, to point out this language and guide us through its usage, including a rare and needed address of the imprecatory psalms.

Pemberton well addresses those who would rebut and dissuade Christians from the use of lament or anything that hints at anger, dissatisfaction, and even resentment towards God.
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Format: Paperback
If you had selected this book based on its title with the expectation that it might serve as a spiritual guide to get you through a period of grieving, you are apt to be disappointed. The subject is not grieving per se; it is `lament', a technical and theological term pertaining more to sadness and regret over an apparent estrangement from God than to grief associated with a personal loss not necessarily spiritual. Grief can be thought of as connected more with human emotion while lament refers to the objective coming to grips with misfortune with God's help. This nuanced distinction is not explicitly made in this work but it is a conclusion that stems from its reading.
In the preface, the author states that his two fold objective is to restore lament as an element of worship in the life of the church and to teach the language of lament. Pemberton attempts to achieve these objectives by (1) making the case that lament has faded from its rightful place as an element of worship in the modern Christian church, (2) describing the poetic or literary structure of the psalms of lament, (3) discussing the expressions the psalmists use to express lament, and (4) to provide suggestions on how to include lament as an integral part of worship.
The book is difficult to review because it is difficult to read and it is difficult to read because it lacks a consistent logical flow, it lacks argumentative rigor and crispness and, thus, persuasiveness. An example is the author's contention that lament has become neglected and needs to be restored to our repertoire of worship. Pemberton bases this assertion on the results of unpublished undergraduate research.
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