A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A Heart Set Free — book review by Rachael Miller

The Psalms of Lament help us journey through the dark valleys until we can emerge on the other side and bow in grateful worship. — Christina Fox

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament [affiliate link*] by Christina Fox has been reviewed by Rachel Miller. We are sharing excerpts from her review. You can read the full review at A Daughter of the Reformation.

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament by Christina Fox is a book about learning from the Psalms of Lament how to cry out to God.

Instead of pretending our emotions don’t exist or that we aren’t hurting, we need to learn how to lament, how to express our emotions in our Christian walk:

The Psalms, especially the Psalms of Lament, give us a structure for how to express our feelings. They remind us what is true. They point us to God’s love and faithfulness. They help us journey through the dark valleys until we can emerge on the other side and bow in grateful worship. (17)

Christina starts the book with the bad news. Our worry, anxiety, fear, doubt are the result of sin:

Sin is the cause of all our pain and sorrow. It might be the sins of others committed against us that bring us feelings of shame. It might be the effects of sin on the creation around us that bring a natural disaster, resulting in loss and our subsequent grief. It might be the brokenness of our bodies, causing us emotional turmoil or the failure of our minds to work as God intended. It might be our own sinful responses to what happens in our lives. It might even be a combination of all these, but at its root, sin is what brings us all our sorrows, griefs, and fears. (39)

She goes on to explain that our normal means of coping (distraction, control, or simply giving in to the worry and fear) are not helping the situation. We’re making the problem worse and not actually dealing with our emotions. I was particularly convicted by what she had to say about using “control”:

Some of us try to handle our emotions, such as worry, fear, or anxiety by attempting to control all the things we worry or fear about. We make to-do lists and refuse to rest until each item is checked off . We research thoroughly everything that worries us. Google and Clorox are our two best friends. … Control is something we all desire but none of us have. … Our desire and pursuit of control are in fact a denial of God’s control. We don’t trust that His plans are good enough. We think we know better what we need. All the worrying, fretting, and stressing we do over our life situations stem from a lack of trust in God’s good and perfect plan for us. (40-41)

Thankfully the book doesn’t stop there and leave us condemning ourselves for our failures. Christina moves on to share the hope of the gospel for the believer wracked with fear or worry or depression:

The gospel of grace has not only saved us from our sins in the past and those in the future, but also empowers us in the present. It is applicable in our daily struggles of walking by faith. It frees us from the bondage of bitterness, anger, worry, fear, despair, and doubt. (59)

But the journey doesn’t end with recognizing our need for a Savior. Knowing that sin has caused our hearts such pain and accepting the grace that God gives us in our salvation through Christ, we still face the day to day challenge of living in a sinful, broken world. And this is where A Heart Set Free is very helpful.

Christina lays out the format of the Psalms of Lament and explains the various elements. The purpose it to teach us to make our own laments using the Psalms as a model. In the Psalms of Lament, there is a “three-part structure” that we can use in our prayers: crying out to God, asking for help, responding in trust and praise (87).

Using these steps we can begin to learn to express our emotions to God and learn to trust in Him through our painful situations. That last part is the one that really challenged me. Since the death of our daughter years ago, I have learned to cry out to God, to tell Him what I’m feeling. I realized months after Bethanne died that I was angry and that I was hurting. And it dawned on me that there was no use in pretending before God that I wasn’t. He knew. And not only did He already know, He loved me. He loved me even though I was angry and hurting. So I cried out to Him and told Him what was on my heart. And He heard me. The pain was still there, but things changed that day. I knew I wasn’t forgotten or unloved.

When my boys were born, I learned to ask God for help daily. Being a mother showed me how much I needed Him all the time. But I have always struggled with the final step. Having cried out and asked God for help, I tend to short circuit and go back to worry and trying to control my situations. The book reminded me that the next step is to trust God and praise Him:

This step of the laments is the part where many of us get to and we stop. It’s easy to cry out to God and ask for help but to trust Him in the darkness where we cannot see what’s ahead of us? That’s the hard part. (134)

Christina reminds us that:

There may also be times when we go through this journey with the psalmist and we respond in trust and worship and still feel grief. We may still feel intense sorrow. This process of following the structure of the laments is not a magical incantation that erases all our emotions. It’s not a step by step list to follow that will take away our problems. But it is a journey that draws us closer to God. (138)

This joy can co-mingle with other emotions. It can co-exist side by side with other feelings and circumstances like sorrow and fear. Even when life is at its hardest, gospel joy is still there. It is always present, like an anchor in the storms of life. (139)

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

 

3 Comments

  1. Mary27

    The author states: “We research thoroughly everything that worries us. Google and Clorox are our two best friends…” That makes it sound like researching abuse is un-spiritual while in reality it may be the first step to set abused women free. It may even lead them to a site like “A Cry for Justice”. It is possible to research and google the things that worry us and still trust that God is in control and perhaps even leading us in our research. The author may not have meant it this way, but it kind of sounds like our trust should be passive… just stay in the abuse as you “trust in God’s good and perfect plan”. The apostle Paul surely trusted in God’s good and perfect plan and yet he fled from his enemies many times. And, of course, the writer of the Psalms spent many years fleeing his abuser (king Saul). However, I haven’t read the book so I may be taking this out of context.

    • Point taken. I think that remark about research was intended to be read as a generalisation but not an absolute condemnation of doing any research at all.

      After all, we research the Bible too — seeking to understand what it says and what it means and how to apply it to our lives!

  2. Helovesme

    This was wonderful!!!

    Boy I know about the “means of coping.” Without going into detail, they are truly fruitless in terms of being able to control events or things around us: “Control is something we all desire but none of us have.”

    I would caution, that there’s nothing wrong with to-do lists and being organized. Just don’t believe that those things are the way to deal with your internal stress, fear, anxiety and worry. They will certainly help you in your day to day life and help you keep track of things, but they are no substitute for the peace of God that only He can give—that transcends our very limited understanding. This is where trusting Him becomes an absolute necessity in our walks with Him. It is difficult to do, but not impossible. He is there with us every step of the way, and will not forsake us during our times of need when we cry out to Him.

    When I experienced four traumatic events (each of which blind sighted me), one after the other in 2015—I became a shell of the person I used to be. My world had fallen apart. Some of it remained intact, but most of it was shattered. And I was shattered right along with it.

    To be honest, even though my memory has unfortunately suffered as a result of those traumas—I don’t recall “holding back” on the Lord. I vented emotion and anger because even the thought of keeping it bottled up inside was too much to bear. I needed my Father, my Savior—my Friend and Solid Rock. I needed Him, and no one else but Him understood me the way I was desperate for.

    I did carry fears of Him scolding me for not being “tough” enough, but it was a chance I had to take. If I WAS guilty of sin, I had to be brave and ask Him to convict me of it—and be willing to be rebuked.

    This is not to brag, or to testily of a “strong” walk with Him. In the majority of my walk with Him, I was known for fleeing away from Him when troubles came, at the drop of a hat.

    When the suffering hits a certain point as it did for me, you grab for the Lord as the solid Rock He is—because everything else is slippery and unstable. It’s a matter of survival. When you are drowning, and His strong, dependable Hand is there to grab—would you rather drown, or admit the need for help and grab that Hand that loves you?

    Please, read Psalm 73 if you have a chance. The Psalmist so eloquently expresses pain, resentment, bitterness of heart and a “why bother” attitude towards godliness. He was discouraged, depressed and upset that the wicked prosper, and he suffers. The rich are ruthless, yet they are allowed to grow wealthier.

    He went into the sanctuary of the Lord, and from verse 22 he becomes encouraged and uplifted. The Psalmist says it so much better than I can sum up, so please read it (and so many other Psalms!) and draw closer to Him in your hours of need!

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