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A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament

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God desires for us to pour out our hearts to Him, whether in joy or pain. But many of us don’t feel right expressing our anger, frustration, and sadness in prayer. From Job to David to Christ, men and women of the Bible understood the importance of pouring one’s heart out to the Father. Examine their stories and expand your definition of worship.

Also A Sacred Sorrow Experience Guide (9781576836682, sold separately), to help individuals or small groups get the most out of this book.

205 pages, Paperback

First published January 18, 2005

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About the author

Michael Card

104 books83 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Michael Card (born April 11, 1957) is an American Christian singer-songwriter, musician, author, and radio host from Franklin, Tennessee. He is best known for his contributions in contemporary Christian music, which couple folk-style melodies and instrumentation with lyrics that stem from intensive study of the Bible. Since his debut in 1981, he has sold more than 4 million albums and has written 19 No. 1 singles.He has also authored several books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner A Sacred Sorrow.


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5 stars
238 (52%)
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151 (33%)
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50 (10%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 74 reviews
Profile Image for Beth Anne.
1,194 reviews92 followers
February 15, 2021
One of my favorite things about bookstagram is the opportunity to talk about and learn about books that are not well-known. A Sacred Sorrow is one such relatively unknown book, but one that has been extremely beneficial for me personally. I've read this book twice in the last 4 years, and for my recent re-read purchased a copy for my own shelves.

This book digs deep into the spiritual practice of lament, the sorrowful act of complete honesty with God in the face of pain and suffering. This isn't meant to be dramatic, and while it may sound self-indulgent, is actually quite the opposite. In acknowledging deep pain, often accompanied by anger and frustration at God himself, lament brings me to a deeper relationship with God, one in which my questions are not always answered, my hurt is not wiped away, but I better understand the character of God.

For me, the practical takeaway that struck me during this read was the contrast of despair and lament. Both of these actions acknowledge that there is a deep wound, a problem so difficult or a circumstance so painful. Despair is when I try to solve whatever it is on my own, in my own strength, in a sense playing God. Lament is the same circumstances, but involves me turning to God in an act of trust. One thing I really appreciated from this book is the gracious way the author talks about lament as a practice. Lament is not natural or simple; it is hard work and takes time. And now having spent years cultivating lament (sometimes poorly and sometimes more actively), I see progress in my own life that has made a meaningful difference in my day-to-day living.

Other resources that have impacted me in this practice of lament are Keller's book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Rabbit Room’s Every Moment Holy, and working through Celebrate Recovery with my small group.

Re-read 2021

This book has twice been an encouragement to me. I'm grateful for the reminder that I can come to God with any emotion, any feeling, any problem, and that he is a God who hears, who sees, who weeps with me. Lament is coming to God, turning from despair where I play God.
Profile Image for Matthew Mitchell.
Author 10 books34 followers
March 7, 2018
A beautiful elegy to tear-filled faith.

Michael Card’s A Sacred Sorrow is a rich, searching, wise, authentic, and accessible (re)introduction to the “lost language” of biblical lament. For the last few years, I’ve been reading everything reliable that I can find on lament in the Bible. I think the 21st century American church needs that kind of tear-filled faith woven back into our prayer lives, corporate worship, and imagination. Pain and suffering are sadly normal in this broken world, and thankfully God has not left us without tools for living in, responding to, and walking through inescapable sorrow. But all too often we have not had access to or a workable understanding of lament (at least in the majority of conservative American evangelicalism that I’ve experienced). We prefer praise. We attempt to get past or get over our pain. We try to smile it away. We know that we’re supposed to trust, to hope, to consider it all joy, and to consider the joy set before us. And we don’t realize that we are also expected to and invited to weep, wail, and wrestle with God.

Enter Michael Card with his short meditations on the lives and laments of Job, David, Jeremiah and, most importantly, Jesus. Card writes about the dark, lonely, uncomfortable, negative, jagged parts of Scripture and how they are in there for our good. And he does it in an experiential way. Most of the things I’ve read so far on lament are academic and abstract. They express the ideas of lament well, but Michael Card sings them. You feel it. And you know that it is right.

A times he over-reaches or overs-peaks. At least he says things in stronger ways that I could say myself based on the data I have. I have to admit that Card could just be utilizing poetic license, or he may see things I just can’t see...yet. I’m very glad that I’ve read it, and I will recommend it to others who want to help restore the rawness of faith in a minor key.
Profile Image for Savannah Knepp.
42 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2022
"Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence. The language of lament gives a meaningful form to our grief by providing a vocabulary for our suffering and then offering it to God as worship... The only answer is a dangerous, disturbing, comforting Presence, which is a true answer to all our questions and hopes."

"Jesus' death and resurrection once and for all should give us hope that we can never be forsaken, forgotten, or or overlooked by God. He is Emmanuel, the God who is ever with us. The God who is moved by our tears."
Profile Image for Heather Ferguson .
156 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2021
I first read this our second year in Peru, after the loss of a child by some friends, but before the loss of my brother exactly a year later. That year in between, not knowing what was to come with my brother, was a study in lament. I was struggling with understanding God's ways and his goodness-struggling to trust him when he let children die. I was personally wrestling with that age old issue of theodicy or the "problem of evil"- how can a God who is supposed to be all powerful and good let so much suffering happen.

This was one a several books I read on suffering and the one that stuck with me the most. It aims for the heart as well as the head in whispering truth through several Biblical personas and their experiences and calls the reader to turn to the God who has promised never to leave or forsake His children, but to be present with them, even in the rage, sorrow and anguish life this side of Heaven will bring. It calls the church of Jesus to make the practice of lament a regular and necessary part of the worshipping life of a healthy church.

In revisiting this book, I was reminded why it stuck with me and why it has been a resource I have recommended for over 15 years. I was reminded why it brought me hope and comfort and how I had learned truths that carried me through my brother's death soon after I had read it the first time, and through many more seasons of suffering since.
Profile Image for Donovan.
31 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2021
This book is divided into short chapters surrounding the figures of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus. Though not wholly bad, I found the language dramatic and the free hermeneutic unnecessary when so much is clear from the biblical text on lament. It is an interesting idea to perceive of lament via biographical figures, but this would hardly be a book I'd recommend for the discussion of biblical grief when so many others have more to offer.
Profile Image for Laura Griffith.
4 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2023
This book is thoughtful and full of depth without being too heavy-handed, theological, or mushy. Card has such a gentle, conversational writing style—I really appreciated his way of looking at both Biblical precedents and the current era. A 10/10 Lenten read for sure.
Profile Image for Josh.
1,046 reviews17 followers
March 7, 2016
I come to this book as a biased reader. Michael Card has been my favorite song writer and a key influence on my spiritual life for many years. In addition, the topic of lament is one I am already sympathetic to and leaning towards. On the whole, I think this book was very helpful. The main argument is that we need to learn how to lament as a way to give expression to grief, sorrow, and sadness before the Lord, rather than letting those experiences become something we cannot bring to God as worship or prayer.

However, there were some troubling statements, or at least those that needed more clarity. For instance, describing God as "lonely." It also seem to me at places to import the categories of modern therapeutic thinking into its understanding of the biblical characters, and at times even God himself.

So I can't give this book 5 stars, though I still love and appreciate the author. Worth a read, but will require some sifting I believe.
Profile Image for Jessica.
9 reviews1 follower
October 9, 2008
Michael Card's music was among the Christian music I listened to while growing up (prior to college when I became a music major and my musical world expanded). In this book, he discusses that many modern American Christians don't understand lament (grieving over sin, suffering etc), something he thinks should be a significant part of our concept of worship. So he goes into the Biblical characters of Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus, and talks about how the lives of each can contribute things to our understanding of lament.

Michael Card has got bachelor and master's degrees in biblical studies from Western Kentucky University and I think also studies classical literature, so he's worth reading. His songwriting comes through - the style can be a bit poetic/lyrical at times - but he's got good things to say.
Profile Image for Mallory.
804 reviews
September 1, 2020
If 2020 does not teach us that we must return to lament in our regular spiritual practices, I do not know what will. A book for private sorrows and those on a national, global scale. A lesson that I will have to return to.

Favorite quotes: "Indeed, none of us need to be taught how to lament. What we need to hear is that we can lament."

"If Jeremiah could not find it in himself to make the Lord his one true Companion in life, he would be forced to wander through the lonely wilderness of his life completely alone."

"Jesus understood the honesty represented in the life that knows how to lament. His life reveals that those who are truly intimate with the Father know they can pour out any hurt, disappointment, temptation, or even anger with which they struggle. Jesus spoke fluently the lost language of lament. He is our best hope of recovering this forgotten vocabulary."
Profile Image for Butch.
121 reviews3 followers
August 11, 2014
I found this to be a helpful study of lamentation through the Scriptures, especially in the lives of Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus. Though Card gets a bit too mystical for me at times, he has strong Scriptural support for his thesis that in the Western church we have taught people that it's not OK to have sorrow. We teach our children not to cry and they never get over it. By tracing the lamentations of four key figures in Scripture he shows the value of laying your sorrows at the throne of God as another form of worship.
The appendices alone are worth the price of the book.
Profile Image for Joyce Oliver stahle.
137 reviews8 followers
July 10, 2014
Very well written and his points are well supported and backed up.
We certainly have lost a virtual experience in our walk with Christ. We need to lament, by lamenting it draws ever closer and draws us into worship.
8 reviews
March 11, 2021
In "A Sacred Sorrow," Michael Card forces you to wrestle with the sorrowful and lamentable experiences in our lives. He urges us to dig deep into the heart of lament where we will often experience these two fundamental questions of our lament: (1) God, where are you? and (2) God, if You me, then why? And yet, Biblical laments are not meant to keep you wallowing in your sorrow but actually pointing you to hope, a hope that is found in Christ ALONE. Michael Card walks you through defining lament and provides common characteristics of lament. He spends the majority of his book looking at the lives of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus. Each of their lives is saturated with lament and provides us with insight into the importance of lament and how to lament well. And in their lament, they have not pushed away from God but into God...for what we all desperately need and long for is only the presence of God.
Laments are not often spoken of inside or outside the church. We think putting up the facade of "I am good" is what we should do. Yet, we know we are lying to ourselves and others, and in turn, are hurting ourselves and others. "A Sacred Sorrow" calls you to embrace our sorrows through lament, that we may experience the one who brings us hope, comfort, and hesed...Jesus Christ.

*He makes a few statements through the book that may feel a little overreaching, so some sifting through will need to be done. But all in all, I think it has been a helpful read as I have tried to educate myself on the topic and practice of lament.
Profile Image for Tori Samar.
540 reviews75 followers
December 27, 2019
"[P]rayers of complaint can still be prayers of faith. They represent the last refusal to let go of the God who may seem to be absent or worse—uncaring. If this is true, then lament expresses one of the most intimate moments of faith—not a denial of it. It is supreme honesty before a God whom my faith tells me I can trust."

Great book to read if you are looking for a springboard into lament, an oft-neglected biblical topic. Card highlights key aspects of lament, particularly presence ("God, where are you?") and hesed ("God, if You love me, then why?"), and key lamenters in the Bible (Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus). Along the way, there are many insightful remarks worth rereading, underlining, and annotating. I would expect nothing less from a book penned by Michael Card.
Profile Image for David Clouse.
175 reviews6 followers
March 6, 2021
This book ends on page 143. The rest is appendices, bibliography, and notes. This book had a great intro, then a section I wasn’t sure how I felt about or how much I agreed with, then the author looked at Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus, and that was all really good.

Christians need to be okay with lamenting individually and sitting with someone who is lamenting. It’s a lost art but one of the most valuable concepts for believers to practice and know. I found myself reading this book at a time in life that made it very applicable without meaning to. Maybe I just wasn’t in tune with my sorrow or frustration like the author explains. Regardless, I think any believer could benefit from this book’s insight into lamentation and sorrow.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 3 books25 followers
March 15, 2023
I can't remember how or why this book entered my library, or how it why it made from California (where my stored library fills many boxes), to Anchorage, where my books fill a single shelf.

A long time passed between starting this book and resuming it. But once I reopened it, Card's words proved perfectly suited to the grief program I recently started.

He tends to short chapters. You could easily read one a night for three-ish weeks, and get through it in 10-15 minutes a day. But the pattern of communication he describes distills some of the most important and hard-won lessons I've yet begun to learn in my walk with Jesus.

It's hard to see this book lying idle for long on my shelf. I suspect I'll turn to it over and over again, either for myself or for friends.
Profile Image for Kari.
225 reviews
September 2, 2019
Excellent! I'm familiar with Michael Card's music from back in the day, and I had heard he also wrote books, but this is the first I've read. He is an excellent Bible teacher and author. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. The first part flowed better than the second half for me. I was going to give it four stars, but then the Appendix was so valuable with resources that I had to increase it to five, and I bought the book. I had read the library copy, but I want to Appendix around for future reference. I also bought companion "A Sacred Sorrow Experience Guide" to do as a special study at some point in the future.
Profile Image for Grace Gibney.
10 reviews
June 14, 2021
I LOVED this book !! Suffering is something every individual will face throughout life but God has not left us without resources in which to respond to and wrestle with those things. The language of lament is something I believe the American evangelical church had lost sight of in a broad sense from my perspective. We too often revert to praise. Too often we may think, if only we can keep a positive mindset, we can bypass or escape our pain. While we are invited to bring our joy and celebrations, we are equally invited to weep, to process and bring our sadness and pain to Jesus- the one who set the ultimate example of lament.

Profile Image for Jodie Pine.
234 reviews5 followers
March 1, 2021
This book really resonated with me. I think this endorsement by Calvin Seerveld is a great summary: "This book is written with a redemptive empathy for all who are hurting and helps us to reconceive what it means to praise the Lord."

And I highlighted this quote from the book: "Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence. The language of lament gives a meaningful form to our grief by providing a vocabulary for our suffering and then offering it to God as worship."
Profile Image for Tim Boynton.
15 reviews
January 16, 2019
Permission and Invitation to lament

In our sin torn and broken world none of us can live here without having their own hearts torn and broken by sin, suffering and deep, deep grief. My 20 year old daughter died nearly 7 months ago and I desperately wanted and needed to connect with God in prayer. Lament is the vocabulary, the language of the broken heart reaching out to the One our hearts were made for
Profile Image for Kimberly Patton.
Author 4 books11 followers
June 3, 2020
This guy is a deep thinker and doesn’t hide it from page one. He feels things on a deeper level and wants to search and search until he reaches the heart of God. It’s very inspiring. I found myself learning quite a bit about Jeremiah, Job, David and Jesus. The best part was the end where he specified that we are lamenting losing the presence of God. That is what we really want and need, and I found that section alone to be worth reading the whole book.
Profile Image for Maggie Griffin.
15 reviews
October 3, 2022
“Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence”.

This book gently walks the reader through why lamenting is a natural part of the human existence & as followers of Jesus, it draws us closer to Him. I’d recommend it to those who don’t know how to put language to their grief or who may be asking the question, “how can a good God let ____ happen.”
Profile Image for Susan.
172 reviews17 followers
January 17, 2023
This book on the lost language of lament has been a balm to my soul. I highly recommend this book to any person but especially those who know suffering, pain, and loss. Michael Card writes about the laments of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus, the Man of Sorrows. Beautifully written with a gentle and understanding tone. Also, his teaching on hesed was beautiful and what my soul longs to know more deeply.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 5, 2023
This is an incredible, rich, and apparently overlooked book by one of my favorite Christian artists, Michael Card. As a counselor and author myself, I am often left without a clear path forward in my conversations with people with Job-like losses. Michael charts a path through the ancient and Biblical category of lament as a way of holding on to our faith, and our God, in the midst of the deepest sorrows. This is a fabulous, simple, yet profound book I will be recommending.
Profile Image for Collynn Harper.
26 reviews
March 9, 2019
What an important book. The language of lament is mostly lost in the church today. Grateful to Michael Card for starting this conversation and for confirming my own journey of lament as a form of worship. Pursuing God’s presence in my sorrow...remembering what He has done, is “honey in my mouth” as Ezekiel says.
Profile Image for Robert Allen.
16 reviews
January 3, 2021
Encouraging Read

This book was suggested to me after the death of my father. Even though it has taken me close to a year to read, it was the Godsend encouragement and insight needed to work through this great loss. I highly recommended this not only those which have gone or going through troubled times but to anyone rather to help others or their self.
Profile Image for Cami Anthony.
5 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2022
I skimmed this book - hitting the highlights. The author encourages us to learn to lament - to cry out to God in our moments/seasons of desperation rather than trying to stuff our anger, frustration, or sadness. He looks at biblical examples of characters who were good at lamenting to teach us how to navigate through these difficult emotions.
Profile Image for Susan.
380 reviews
October 30, 2022
I’ve been slowly digesting this book, in snippets, for a few months. The overall message of lament being a form of worship - and that it is true worship in times of great pain … this was very powerful. Also the clarity of the dual necessities of holding on to God’s presence and His loving-kindness (hesed).
The stories of Job, David & Jesus fleshed out these realities.
Profile Image for Marlise.
417 reviews8 followers
May 27, 2023
A good introduction to Lament and where it is found in the Bible. I think I was hoping for more of a practical guide. The subtitle Reaching Out To God In The Lost Language Of Lament is a bit misleading. It is more of a basic overview of the books of Job, parts of the Psalms, Jeremiah, and Lamentations than an actual guide through Lament in our own lives.
Profile Image for Erin.
157 reviews8 followers
December 22, 2019
A healing walk through Biblical lament and how crucial it is to this life between gardens. From birth our mothers try to shush our lament and we live life rushing past this holy practice. This was a great read on the heels of “It’s not supposed to be this way” by Lysa TerKeurst.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 74 reviews

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