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Hopeful Lament: Tending our Grief through Spiritual Practices by Terra McDaniel


Spiritual director Terra McDaniel’s new book, Hopeful Lament, is a tender mercy.

For isn’t it a mercy to be free to lament—to name what is—to be authentic before God? To be sad if we’re sad and grasp that the One who knows all things knows loss too?

A former pastor, McDaniel has needed to lament. Her family encountered physical threat and unexpected job loss—before a house fire consumed almost everything. And the losses didn’t end there.

With a quiet style, McDaniel is candid about the common American response to lament: resistance. She says, “We don’t want to engage (lament) experientially because of its natural appeal. Lament tends to be the last resort because it involves pain and loss and unanswerable questions.”

After the fire, church friends began to say those awful things like “It’s just stuff” or “You know it happened for a reason.” Such comments, McDaniel says, do not help.

She also deconstructs shallow religious fallacies that label a hardship or tragedy as evidence we did something wrong. She cites N.T. Wright who calls “perspectives like these a version of ancient pagan thinking.”

Well-framed activities end each chapter. For example, the chapter “Learning to Speak Sadness” moves into an invitation to write a psalm. The how-to follows simple steps like first journaling about our grief’s focus.

Artists, mental health experts, and well-known theologians like Walter Brueggemann provide thoughtful support for chapters such as “Ashes for Beauty,” “How Grieving Got Lost,” and “Lamenting When Community is Toxic.”

Now McDaniels serves adults and children as a spiritual director. Hopeful Lament would be a wonderful resource for group discussions and practices. (IVP Formatio).

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