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Biblical Sufferology - Kelleman

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Biblical Sufferology:

How to Bring Hope to the Hurting

Abstract

Students of human grief have developed various models that track typical grief responses. However, their models fail to assess whether the responses correspond to God’s process for hurting and hoping. Biblical sufferology identifies eight scriptural stages in our response to life’s losses. Our biblical theology of suffering equips helpers to competently sustain and heal sufferers so that they can face suffering face-to-face with God.  

Learning Objectives

Biblical Sufferology will equip readers to:

©       Understand and develop a biblical theology of suffering—a sufferology.

©       Use candor, complaint, cry, and comfort as four diagnostic indicators for assessing where people are in the biblical grief process.

©       Use waiting, wailing, weaving, and worshipping as four diagnostic indicators for assessing where people are in the biblical acceptance process.

©       Use scriptural explorations and spiritual conversations (trialogues) as biblical treatment interventions that empower people to find God in the midst of their suffering.

Author: Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D.

©       Position: Chairman, Master of Arts in Christian Counseling and Discipleship Department, Capital Bible Seminary, Lanham, MD

©       Education: B.A., Baptist Bible College; Th.M., Grace Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Kent State University

©       Author: Soul Physicians: A Theology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction

©       Author: Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction

©       Founder: RPM Books (www.rpmbooks.org)

©       Founder: RPM Ministries: “Seminars for Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth”

©       Contact: bob@rpmministries.org

Biblical Sufferology: How to Bring Hope to the Hurting

The Big Picture: Creative Suffering

      Though everyone suffers, few suffer creatively. Frequently we seem unable to move through hurt to hope.

      Frank Lake, British Christian psychiatrist, describes God’s school of creative suffering. “There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God, and battered into a meaningful shape” (Lake, Clinical Theology, p. 97). Notice what the anvil is—a lively relationship with God. Notice the process—battering. Notice the result—meaning, purpose.

      Another individual, this one intimately acquainted with grief, also pictures creative suffering. You may recall Terry Waite. The British hostage released in 1991 after nearly five years of solitary confinement in Lebanon was chained to the wall of his room for almost twenty-four hours a day. Reflecting on his circumstances, he noted:

I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that's the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it and eventually convert it (Waite, Taken on Trust, p 11).

Creative suffering doesn’t simply accept suffering, through the Cross it transforms it.

      Biblical Sufferology seeks to equip you to empower others to experience the life-changing power of creative suffering. It does so through the following focus:

Students of human grief have developed various models that track typical grief responses. However, their models fail to assess whether the responses correspond to God’s process for hurting and hoping. Biblical sufferology identifies eight scriptural stages in our response to life’s losses. Our biblical theology of suffering equips helpers to competently sustain and heal sufferers so that they can face suffering face-to-face with God.  

      Biblical Sufferology compares and contrasts research-based models of grief with a revelation-based model. This revelation-based model teaches that when tragedy occurs, we enter a crisis of faith. We either move toward God or away from God. Biblical Sufferology explores what factors decide the direction we take, and what relational competencies we can use to assist sufferers to face suffering with Christ, not without Him.

I.  Biblical Sufferology: Toward a Theology of Suffering

      How do we move from suffering to creative suffering? How do we help others to suffer face-to-face with God rather than turning their backs on God during suffering? To answer these core questions, let’s begin with a theology of suffering.

     A. Why We Need a Biblical Sufferology

            1.   The Bible Has One and We Don’t!

      Why do we need a theology of suffering? Because the Bible has one, and we don’t! Theologians have developed a theology of Creation—how God designed us. They call it anthropology; counselors call it biblical psychology. They’ve developed well thought through models of sin—how sin marred and depraved us. They call it hamartiology; counselors call it biblical psychopathology. Theologians teach a theology of redemption—how salvation restores us. They call it soteriology; counselors call it biblical psychotherapy.

      Unfortunately, we’re left us without a theology of suffering. Suffering is everywhere in the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 19. Yet, we’ve not done the hard work of studying the Bible from cover to cover to uncover a theology of suffering—a sufferology. This must change.

      Frank Lake explains why. “The maladies of the human spirit in its deprivations and in its depravity are matters of common pastoral concern” (Lake, Clinical Theology, p. 37). True pastoral/Christian counseling not only studies depravity—the sins we have committed, it also must examine deprivationthe evils we have suffered.

      St. John of the Cross describes what happens when we look only at personal sin and neglect or even reject personal suffering. “Incompetent spiritual directors know no way with souls but to hammer and batter them like a blacksmith.” When we talk about depravity and not deprivation, when we talk about sin and not suffering, then we become like Job’s counselors, who Job labeled “miserable comforters.” They mistakenly called his suffering, sin and cruelly claimed that he was suffering because of personal sin. Biblical Sufferology offers biblical, logical, and theological proof that true biblical counseling deals both with the sins we have committed and with the evils we have suffered.

            2.   The World Has One, But It’s Inadequate

      There’s a second reason why we need to develop a biblical sufferology. The world has one, but it’s inadequate. As we’ve noted, students of human grief have developed various models that track typical grief responses. However, these models fail to assess whether these responses correspond to God’s process for hurting and hoping.

      We must understand something about research in a fallen world. At best, it describes what typically occurs. It cannot, with assurance and authority, prescribe what should occur. Research attempts to understand the nature of human nature are thwarted by the fallenness of our nature and of our world. As Dallas Willard explains:

Secular psychology is not in an “at-best” set of circumstances. The question of who we are and what we are here for is not an easy one, of course. For those who must rely upon a strictly secular viewpoint for insight, such questions are especially tough. Why? Because we do in fact live in a world in ruins. We do not exist now in the element for which we were designed. So in light of that truth, it’s essentially impossible to determine our nature by observation alone, because we are only seen in a perpetually unnatural position (Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 45).

      Does this mean that Christians should not be involved in psychological research? Not at all. Does this mean that Christians should ignore psychological research? No. It simply means that we must understand the limitations of psychological research, and that we must always test psychological research against the findings of biblical revelation.

     B.  How We Develop a Biblical Sufferology

      This leads into the question, “How do we develop a biblical sufferology—a theology of suffering?” You deserve to know how I developed my model. I also want to teach you how to fish as well as give you a fish. That is, I want to teach you, at least in introductory fashion, how you can develop your own biblical model of suffering.

      Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. To develop a biblical model of suffering, read the Bible from cover to cover. Here’s the detailed version. To develop a biblical model of suffering, read the Bible from cover to cover researching six core questions.

            1.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question One: What Pattern of Responding to Suffering

                  Do We Find in Scripture?

      I literally read from Genesis to Revelation collating how people responded to suffering. As I did, I looked for patterns, trying hard not to force responses into any preconceived stages.

      In answering this research question, we have to realize that not every response is going to be a biblically healthy one. For instance, when Saul responded to his loss of respect compared to David, he reacted by trying to spear David through the heart. Biblical sufferology is not going to say, “Stage two biblical sufferology suggests heart-spearing of perceived enemies.”

            2.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question Two: What Prescriptions Concerning How to

                  Respond to Suffering Do We Find in Scripture?

      That’s why we ask question two. Here we collate not only the grief response, but also the Bible’s commentary on the wisdom or foolishness of such responses. Clearly, Saul is not applauded as a healthy model.      We’re also looking here for biblical teaching on healthy grieving—things such as Paul telling us to grieve with hope in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 and to groan with desperate desire in Romans 8:22-23, as well as Jesus modeling godly grief at the death of Lazarus and godly acceptance in the Garden of Gethsemane.

            3.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question Three: What Procedures for Helping Others to

                  Progress through Suffering Do We Distill from Scripture?

      Since the Bible teaches truth for life, we also ask a procedural question. Here we look for models of how people helped others to move through grief. Sometimes we record negative models such as Job’s miserable comforters. Other times we record positive models such as Paul helping Timothy to come to terms with Paul’s impending death.

            4.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question Four: What Patterns, Prescriptions, and

                  Procedures Have Our Predecessors and Colleagues Discovered in Their Study of

                  Scripture?

      If we’re arrogant, we’ll stop at question three and assume that because we examined sufferology, it’s true. If we’re humble, then we’ll continue with question four. What have other students of sufferology found in their biblical research—both our contemporary colleagues and our past predecessors? I call this a validity check. If my “stages” are off base and no one else has ever discovered them in 2000 years of Church history, then I may want to go back to the drawing board.

            5.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question Five: Are These Patterns, Prescriptions, and

                  Procedures Practical in the Real World?

      If question four is a validity check, then question five is a reality check. Since the Bible is relevant, if my studies are accurate, then they will fit in the real world. When I relate them to sufferers, they will be meaningful and even successful. If my stages of suffering seem off the wall to real people with real problems, then I will want to return to the Scriptures.

            6.   Biblical Sufferology Research Question Six: How Do These Patterns, Prescriptions, and

                  Procedures Compare to Psychological Research?

 

      Question six uses biblical revelation to test psychological research. Let’s relate this to today’s topic of the stages of grieving. Notice in your outline two popular research-based models of the grief process.

                  a.   TEAR: Jane Bissler

 

      Jane Bissler (Counseling for Loss and Life Change) promotes a model, which uses the acrostic TEAR:

©       T: To accept the reality of the loss.

©       E: Experience the pain of the loss.

©       A: Adjust to the new environment without the lost object.

©       R: Reinvest in the new reality.

                  b.   DABDA: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

      Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Death and Dying, popularized a five-stage model of grieving based upon her research into how terminally ill persons respond to the news of their terminal illness. Her five stages, which have since been used to describe all grief responses, are:

©       Denial: This is the shock reaction. “It can’t be true.” “No, not me.” We refuse to believe what happened.   

©       Anger: Resentment grows. “Why me?” “Why my child?” “This isn’t fair!” We direct blame toward God, others, and ourselves. We feel agitated, moody, on edge.

©       Bargaining: We try to make a deal, insisting that things be the way they used to be. “God, if you heal my little girl, I’ll never drink again.” “If I’m very good, then God might relent and be very good to me.” We call a temporary truce with God.

©       Depression: Now we say, “Yes, me.” The courage to admit our loss brings sadness (which can be healthy mourning and grieving) and hopelessness (which is unhealthy mourning and grieving). 

©       Acceptance: Now we face our loss calmly. It’s a time of silent reflection and regrouping. “Life has to go on. How? What do I do now?” With one’s own impending death, it’s a time of quiet contemplation almost void of feelings. Sometimes it includes contentment, other times despair.

 

      These various stages in the grief process claim to record what does typically occur. They do not attempt to assess if this is what is best to occur, or if it is God’s process for hurting and hoping.

      My study of biblical sufferology suggests an eight-stage process for moving hurting people to hope in Christ. Biblical Sufferology examines this biblical process, exploring how we can offer competent biblical sustaining and healing that empowers people to face suffering face-to-face with God.

      Biblical Sufferology

Sustaining in Suffering

“It’s Normal to Hurt and Necessary to Grieve.”

      Stage                     Typical Grief Response                     Biblical Grief Response

      Stage One              Denial/Isolation                               Candor: Honest with Self

      Stage Two              Anger/Resentment                                Complaint: Honest to God

      Stage Three            Bargaining/Works                                 Cry: Asking God for Help

      Stage Four             Depression/Alienation                           Comfort: Receiving God’s Help

     

Healing in Suffering

“It’s Possible to Hope in the Midst of Grief.”

      Stage                     Typical Acceptance Response          Biblical Acceptance Response

      Stage Five              Regrouping                                     Waiting: Trusting with Faith

      Stage Six                Deadening                                            Wailing: Groaning with Hope

      Stage Seven           Despairing/Doubting                             Weaving: Perceiving with Grace

      Stage Eight       Digging Cisterns                                    Worshipping: Engaging with Love

 

 

II. Sustaining Sufferology: Candor, Complaint, Cry, and Comfort—Biblical   Diagnostic Indicators and Treatment Interventions for Assessing and Assisting in

     the Grief Process

      Sustaining is a term that describes the first phase in historic soul care. Today, we use terms like empathy, entering, compassion, rapport, and connecting to describe this phase in the counseling relationship.

      I like to picture it with the rather macabe image of climbing in the casket. Your counselee or parishioner is grieving like the Apostle Paul was in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. “We don’t want you to be uniformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” You’ve been there. Our counselees have been there. Our parishioners.

      When our spiritual friends feel like this, how do we help? By climbing in the casket with them. By entering their agony. Why do we help like this? Because shared sorrow is endurable sorrow. Because we want them to know that it’s normal to hurt and necessary to grieve. Sustaining sufferology climbs in the casket of candor, complaint, cry, and comfort—the four biblical stages that define the grief process.

      A.  Stage One: CandorHonest with Self Rather Than Denial

            1.   Denial Described

        Candor contrasts with the typical first stage of grieving—denial. When suffering first hits; when we first hear the news of the unexpected death of a loved one; when we’re told that we’ve been fired; we respond with shock. We can’t believe it. Life seems unreal.

      I experienced this when I was ten years old. It was December and I was coming home from Riddle’s Pond where we were playing hockey. Billy Trapp and I were in a fight. Billy Trapp and I were always in a fight. My Mom pulls up, rolls down the window, and says, “Get in the car. Grandpa died.”

      My response? “You’re kidding.” Like my Mom would kid about something like that.

      Denial is a common initial grief response. I believe that this initial response is a grace of God allowing our bodies and physical brains to catch up, to adjust. However, after the necessary period of time, long-term denial is counter-productive. More than that, it is counter to faith, because true faith faces all of life.

      I worked with a Youth Pastor who struggled to move past denial. His wife died while giving birth to their only child. He denied the reality for months. He went on preaching, continued ministering. He never grieved, never wept. He put on a happy face. Behind the scenes, he was a mess. He constantly hallucinated that he saw and heard his deceased wife. He neared a breakdown, largely because he could not move out of the stage of denial and into the stage of candor.

            2.   Candor Defined

      What exactly is biblical candor? Candor is courageous truth telling about life to myself in which I come face-to-face with the reality of external and internal suffering.

      Let’s explore the last part of this definition first. We can divide suffering into two levels. Level one suffering is what happens to us and around us—external suffering—life’s losses. Level one suffering is what we are facing. It’s the external stuff of life to which we respond internally. I lose my job, my child is ill, I face criticism, experience abuse, and the like. I like to say it like this: the world is fallen and it often falls on us.

      This is bad, even traumatic, but level two suffering is worse. Level two suffering is what happens in us—internal suffering—life’s crosses. Level two suffering is how we face what we are facing. This level of suffering is the suffering of the mind that gives rise to fear and doubt as we reflect on our external suffering. It is the crisis of faith. Do we doubt, fear, and run away from God? Or, do we trust, cling, and face our suffering face-to-face with God? I like to say it like this: The world is a mess and it often messes with our mind. In candor, I admit what is happening to me and I feel what is going on inside me.

      I had to move from denial to candor after the death of my father on my 21st birthday. In fact, it was not until my 22nd birthday that the process truly began. I had been handling my loss like a good Bible college graduate and seminary student—I was pretending.

      On my 22nd birthday I went for a long walk around the outskirts of the Grace Seminary campus. I started facing my loss. My loss of my Dad. The reality that I would never know him in an adult-to-adult relationship. The fact that my future children would never know their grandfather. As I faced some of these external loses, the tears came. Then I began to face some of the internal crosses. What was happening in me. I felt like a loner. Fatherless. Orphaned. Unprotected. On my own. The tears flowed. The process of candor began. The floodgate of emotions erupted. I was being honest with myself.

            3.   Candor Biblically Supported

      Was it a biblical process? Can candor be biblically supported?

      David practices candor in Psalm 42:3-5. “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

      Notice how David is honest about his external suffering—he describes his losses—the loss of fellowship, leadership, and worship. He also is candid about his internal suffering—he depicts his crosses—accurately labeling his soul as downcast and disturbed within him.

      If we had time, we could examine how biblical character after biblical character practiced candor—Job, Jeremiah, Solomon, Asaph, Heman (Psalm 88), Jesus, Paul, and so many more.

      The Apostle Paul does not tell us not to grieve; he tells us not to grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He chooses a Greek word meaning to feel sorrow, distress, and grief, and to experience pain, heaviness, and inner affliction. Paul is teaching that grief is the grace of recovery because mourning slows us down to face life. No grieving; no healing. Know grieving; know healing. The only person who can truly dare to grieve, bear to grieve, is the person with a future hope that things will eventually be better. When we trust God's good heart, then we trust Him no matter what. We need not pretend. We can face and embrace the mysteries of life.

       Candor or denial. The choice is a turning point. It is a line drawn in the sand of life, a hurdle to confront. Faith crosses the line. Trust leaps the hurdle. We face reality and embrace truth, sad as it is. If facing suffering is wrestling face-to-face with God, then candor is our decision to step on the mat.

     

            4.   Candor and Competent Biblical Sustaining: Relationally Competent Interventions

      How do we help others to step on the mat, to move from denial to candor? What are relationally competent interventions? We could spend our entire time just on this point since there are many biblically effective ways to empower people to move through the grieving process. However, we’ll focus on one category of interventions.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

      I’m labeling this category “trialogues.” In a monologue, I speak to you and/or at you. In a dialogue, we converse back and forth. In a trialogue, a third Party joins us in our conversation—God. Every Christian counseling session must have this three-way communication: you and your counselees listen to God, exploring how His Word relates to their situation.

      I’ve outlined two broad types of trialogues. Scriptural explorations explore specific, applicable passages to empower people to relevantly relate God’s Word to their struggles. Spiritual conversations ponder broad biblical principles to empower people to face life face-to-face with God. We’ll illustrate the subtle difference throughout our time.

      But before we do, ponder the importance of trialogues. Unfortunately, even in Christian counseling, we often follow extremes in our use of the Scriptures. Some people think preaching a thirty-minute sermon to a counselee is biblical counseling. Others are so afraid of being preachy and over-spiritualizing everything, that they never use the Scriptures other than perhaps recommending a few pertinent verses to read in-between sessions. As you’ll see with our use of trialogues, there is a much better way. A way that respects our client’s ability to relate God’s truth to his or her life and a way that demonstrates our confidence in the power of God’s Word to change people’s lives.

      You’ll notice that our sample trialogues start with basic empathy and slowly build toward biblical exploration. You’ll also notice that many candor trialogues focus on granting permission to grieve, since many Christians wrongly believe that if you’re spiritual enough then you will not need to grieve.

                        i.    Trialogues with Believers

©       “I’m so sorry this has happened to you.”

©       “I can only begin to imagine what you might be feeling.”

©       “If it were me, I think I might be feeling __________. How does that relate to how you’re feeling?”

©       “To receive this diagnosis in the prime of your life, with your future ahead of you, with your family so young, it has to feel/seem/be ______________.”

©       “What is your loss like for you?”

©       “What’s it like to go through all of this?”

©       “What has been robbed from your life due to this? What is missing?” (Level Two.)

©       “What are you grieving over the most?”

©       “Have you ever faced anything like this before? How did you feel then?”

©       “How are your family members responding to this?”

©       “What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling and expressing anger in a situation like yours?”

©       “Do you find examples in the Bible of believers facing suffering and struggling with depression?”

©       “David experienced something similar. Stalked by Saul, his life was on the line. He faced the valley of the shadow of death. Could we look at his situation and his response (Psalm 23)?”

©       “Tamar experienced something like this. Her half-brother betrayed her sexually. Could we look at her situation and her response (2 Samuel 13)?”

©       “Let’s ponder how 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (Paul’s teaching on candor) might relate to your grieving.”

©       “Could we explore what applications 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (Paul’s candor) might have to your loss?”

     

                        ii.   Trialogues with the Unsaved

      I’m often asked if such intensely spiritual conversations can relate to non-Christians. Absolutely. Consider some examples that use spirituality as a legitimate area of holistic, multi-cultural counseling.

©       “I’m interested in how you are relating your spiritual values to your struggle.”

©       “Has your loss made any difference in your spiritual life?”

©       “What source of strength have you turned to in your distress?”

©       “Who have you turned to during this tough time?”

©       “Your son’s sudden death has left you terribly dejected. You feel this pervasive grief, and at the moment you can find no consolation in your life or your religious faith.”

©       “It’s hard to feel anything but sadness because of your son’s death, and this is made even worse by the feeling that it was terribly unjust, a betrayal by God.”

©       “It’s hard to feel anything but sadness because of your son’s death, but some part of you would welcome genuine faith and consolation.”

©       “One part of you wants some genuine relief from your deep sorrow, but you don’t feel open to the peace and assurance that your faith might give.”

©       “One part of you is terribly angry at God for taking your son from you, but you are reluctant to express that anger, to tell God how you feel and what you think.”

©       “How are these problems influencing your relationship to God?”

©       “Has the suffering you’ve experienced made any difference in your feelings toward God?”

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Denial to

                        Candor?

 

      B.  Stage Two: ComplaintHonest to God Rather Than Anger

     

      Stage one seeks to diagnose and treat our spiritual friends so they move from denial to candor. Stage two diagnoses and treats our spiritual friends so they move from destructive anger to constructive complaint.

            1.   Anger Described

      Satan is the master masquerader (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). His counterfeit for biblical complaint is unhealthy, destructive anger. He substitutes cursing for complaint. Such as when Job’s wife counsels Job to curse God and die—give up on God, on yourself, and on life. Cursing God demeans Him, seeing Him as a lightweight, as a dark desert and a land of great darkness (Jeremiah 2). Cursing separates. Complaint connects. Complaint draws us toward God; hatred and anger push us away from God.

            2.   Complaint Defined

 

      What then is complaint? In candor we’re honest with ourselves; in complaint we’re honest to God. Complaint is vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering.

      We needlessly react against the word “complaint.” “Christians can’t complain!” we insist. Yet numerically, there are more Psalms of complaint and lament than Psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

      Complaints are faith-based acts of persistent trust. They are one of the many moods of faith. Psalm 91’s exuberant trust is one faith mood while Psalm 88’s dark despair is another faith mood. A mood of faith is simply trusting God enough to bring everything about us to Him. In complaint we hide nothing from God because we trust His good heart and because we know He knows our hearts.

      In the weeks and months after my 22nd birthday, I engaged in passionate complaint. What made my struggle even more difficult was my lack of assurance that my father was a believer. I had witnessed to him, prayed for him, and he even began attending church with me. Yet even on his deathbed, he made no verbal commitment of faith in Christ.

      So I shared with God. I complained to God. I told God, “What’s the use. Why did I pray, witness, and share? Why should I ever pray again? Why should I ever try again, trust again?” I shared my confusion and my doubt with God. “Why does everyone else’s parents accept Christ in a glorious deathbed conversion? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with You, God. You have not kept Your promise!”

            3.   Complaint Biblically Supported

      Were my expressions of complaint biblical? Can complaint be biblically supported?

      Consider Psalm 62:8. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” The biblical genre of complaint expresses frankness about the reality of life that seems incongruent with the character of God. Complaint is an act of truth-telling faith, not unfaith. Complaint is a rehearsal of the bad allowed by the Good. Complaint lives in the real world honestly, refusing to ignore what is occurring. It is radical trust in God’s reliability in the midst of real life.

      In Job 3, and much of Job for that matter, Job forcefully and even violently expresses his complaint. “What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all roads to meaning? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:23-25). In Job 42:7-8, God honors Job’s complaint saying that Job spoke right of life and right of God. God prizes complaint and rejects all deceiving denial and simplistic closure, preferring candid complexity.

      In Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah complains that God appears, by reason alone, to be an unprincipled, abusive Bully. “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.” Jeremiah felt and expressed condemnation and rejection in Lamentations 5:20. “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” God responds positively to Jeremiah’s rehearsal of life’s incongruity.

      Heman, considered one of the wisest believers ever (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6), pens the Psalm of the dark night of the soul (Psalm 88) in which his concluding line sums his spiritual struggle. “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18).

      To deny or diminish suffering is to arrogantly refuse to be humbled. It is to reject dependence upon God. We are chastised in Deuteronomy 8:1-10 for forgetting our past suffering. God wants us to remember our suffering, our need for Him in our suffering, and rehearse our suffering before Him. 

            4.   Complaint and Competent Biblical Sustaining: Relationally Competent Interventions

      So how do we help? What do complaint trialogues sound like and feel like? Notice a few examples.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

                 

©       “You’ve shared a lot. There’s obviously so much going on inside. Rightly so. Yet, so far we’ve not talked much about where God fits into your picture . . .”

©       “What are you doing with God in your suffering?”

©       “Has your lose made any difference in your feelings toward God? Relationship to God?”

©       “Have you been able to share your heart with God? If so, what have you said?”

©       “If you were not a believer, what do you think you would feel? Do? Think? Say?”

©       “What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling anger or disappointment toward God?”

©       “What do you think the Bible says about expressing your feelings toward God?”

©       “What verses might we ponder to illustrate how God’s people have talked to God when they experienced loss?”

©       “So far it appears that your anger is pushing you away from God. Is it possible that God’s able to handle your anger, wants to hear your hurt?”

©       “What does Psalm 88 suggest about expressing your anger, disappointment, or complaint toward God? How could you relate this to your response to God?”

©       “If you were to write a Psalm 13 or a Psalm 88 to God (Psalms of lament and complaint), how would it sound? What would you write?”

©       “How would you compare your response to your suffering to Job’s? Jeremiah’s? Jacob’s? David’s? Paul’s? Jesus in the Garden?”

©       “Job and Jeremiah got pretty raw and real with God. Let’s look at some examples . . .”

©       “We’ve talked about Job’s story. Suppose Satan sent someone to you to say, “Curse God and die.’ How would you respond?”

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Anger to                            Complaint?

 

 

      C.  Stage Three: CryAsking God for Help Rather Than Bargaining/Works

      Stage one moves from denial to candor, stage two from angry to complaint, and stage three from bargaining and works to crying out to God for help.

 

            1.   Bargaining/Works Described

      Notice when I evaluate the typical third stage of grief that I put works with bargaining. Even Kubler-Ross recognized this reality. The dying people that she worked with bargained with God believing that they would be rewarded for their good behavior and granted special favors. This is exactly what Job’s miserable counselors counseled Job to do—behave, be good, do right and God will treat you right. Bargaining knows nothing of grace. It is all works, all self-effort, all self-sufficiency. That’s why as Christian counselors we want to move people from works to cry.

            2.   Cry Defined

      What is cry? Cry is a faith-based plea for mobilization in which I humbly ask God for help based upon my admission that I can’t survive without Him. Cry is reaching up with open palms and pleading eyes in the midst of darkness and doubt.

      Throughout my 22nd year of life, I cried out to God for help. “God, I’m confused. I’m scared. Everything I trusted in is gone. I used to think that if I only prayed hard enough and worked long enough, that eventually everything I longed for would come true in this life. But now I know that’s a lie. So what is true? What have You really promised? What can I count on? I can’t count on myself. Father, I want to count on You. Don’t let me down. Rescue me. Help me. Save me.”

 

            3.   Cry Biblically Supported

      Did God hear my cries? Were my cries biblical? Can we find biblical support for cry as a scriptural stage of grief?

      Psalm 56:8 teaches that we pray our tears and God collects them in His bottle. Psalm 72:12 assures us, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out” (KJV—when he crieth). Psalm 34 reminds us, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). I learned the significance of those particular verses from a counselee whose husband had left her for another man. Yes, for another man. She clung to the truth and taught me the truth that God’s good heart goes out, especially, to the humble needy. She practiced biblical cry—the hopeful, trusting expression that God would mobilize Himself on her behalf.

      Crying out to God, lamenting, is a testimony that God is responsive, while the idols are non-responsive (1 Samuel 12:20-24). When we cry out, we entreat God to help because expressed neediness compels God’s very character to act. God acts on voiced pain. He’s not a deaf and dumb idol.

      Crying empties us, so there is more room in us for God. David wept until he had no strength left, but then he found strength in the LORD (1 Samuel 30:6). His cry summoned God into action—supportive action.

      Suffering is God’s “opus alienum”—God’s dominant way of destroying our self-reliance and complacency. He uses suffering to gain our attention. Suffering is a slap in the face, the shock of icy water, a bloodied nose; meant to snatch our attention. Cry is our admission that God has our attention, that God has us.

            4.   Cry and Competent Biblical Sustaining: Relationally Competent Interventions

      What trialogues encourage our spiritual friends to cry out to God? Consider some examples.     

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

©       “How could your pain cause you to cry out to God for help, love, strength, joy, peace, deliverance?”

©       “If you knew that God would say, ‘Yes’ to your prayers about this situation, what would you be praying?”

©       “As in Psalm 13, how could your situation cause you to cry out to God for help and strength?”

©       “If you were to write a Psalm 72 or 73 (Psalms of crying out to God), how would it sound? What would you write?”

©       “What would it be like for you to let God collect your tears in His bottle?”

©       “Psalm 34:17-18 teaches that God’s good heart goes out especially to the humble needy. How could you apply this truth in your life now?”

©       “C. S. Lewis once wrote that ‘God whispers to us in our suffering, but shouts to us in our pain,’ and taught that pain is God’s megaphone to get our attention and to cause us to depend upon Him. What message is God shouting to you in your pain? Does He have your attention? Your dependence?”

©       “At times you seem to be working pretty hard to not need God. What do you make of this?”

©       “God doesn’t seem to be going along with this bargain: you reform; He relents. Since He may not change your circumstances, perhaps you could change your prayers. Praying for inner strength . . .”

©       “What Scriptures could we look at that illustrate how God’s people have talked to God when they felt that He was not hearing their cry?”

©       “What’s it like when God seems deaf to your cry?”

©       “What’s it like when God seems to rush to your side when you cry?”

 

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Works to                           Cry?

 

 

      D.  Stage Four: ComfortCommunion Rather Than Depression/Alienation

      Stage one involves denial or candor, stage two anger or complaint, stage three bargaining/works or cry, and stage four depression due to alienation or finding comfort through communion. Through candor we choose to step on the mats with God. With complaint, the match begins. With cry, we cry “Uncle.” We say, “I’m pinned. I’m helpless. You win, God. Now I win, too.” Comfort, then, is the crippling touch of God that plants the seed for healing. In cry, we ask for God’s help. In comfort, we receive God’s help. In comfort, the God we cried out to, comes.

            1.   Depression/Alienation Described

      In the typical fourth stage of grief, there’s a type of depression that we might best describe as hopelessness. The person accepts reality, but only from an earthly perspective. They can see no higher plan.

      It reminds me of the chilling opening scene in the musical Les Mis. Hundreds of prisoners are chanting, “Look down, look down, don’t look them in the eyes.” They’re filled with shame. Then one prisoner attempts to break free from his emotional prison by singing that there are people who love him and are waiting for him when he’s released. The guards and even the other prisoners heap more shame upon him. One cries, “Sweet Jesus doesn’t care.” Others sing, “You’ll always be a slave, you’re standing in your grave.” That’s hopelessness. That’s the fourth stage of grief without Christ. 

            2.   Comfort Defined

      What then is comfort? Before I offer a definition, I’ll offer some history. Historically, sustaining has attempted to draw a line in the sand of retreat. Horrible things happen to us. We’re charging headlong away from the life that we once dreamed of. We’re ready to give up and give in. Sustaining steps in to say, “Yes, you do have a wound. You will have the scar. But it is neither fatal nor final. Don’t quit. You can make it. You can survive.”

      It’s within this context of surviving scars that I’m using the word “comfort.” Originally, comfort meant co-fortitude—being fortified by the strength of another. Being en-couraged—having courage poured into you from an outside source. That outside source, for Christians, is Christ and the Body of Christ. In this life, your scar may not go away, but neither will His. He understands. He cares. He’s there.

      Now we can define comfort. Comfort/communion experiences the presence of God in the presence of suffering—a presence that empowers me to survive scars and plants the seed of hope that I may yet thrive. At the end of sustaining, I’m not necessarily thriving. More likely, I’m limping, but at least I’m no longer retreating.

      For me, comfort reflected itself in my decision not to give up on God and not to give up on ministry. Here I was in seminary, preparing for ministry, and secretly doubting God—doubting His goodness, His trustworthiness, His ability, or at least His desire, to protect me and care for me. As comfort came, I came face-to-face with God. We had some wild talks. We had some fierce wrestling matches.

      God won. I surrendered. Still confused about the details of life, but committed to the Author of Life. More than that, surrendered to Him and dependent upon Him. My attitude was like Peter’s when Jesus asked His disciples, “Will you, too, leave me?” Remember Peter’s reply? “To whom else could we go? You alone have the Words of life.”

      I was surviving again, surviving though scarred. I was not and never again would be that same naïve young Christian who assumed that if I prayed and worked hard enough, God would grant me my every expectation. My faith was not a naïve faith, but it was a deeper faith—a faith that could walk in the dark.

 

            3.   Comfort Biblically Supported

      Did my experience of comfort reflect a biblical process? Can we biblically support comfort? Jacob’s wrestling match with God certainly illustrates it. Recall the context. Jacob is terrified that his brother Esau will kill him. In self-sufficiency, Jacob plans and plots ways to manipulate Esau into forgiving him.

      Then, at night (isn’t it always at night?) Jacob encounters God. He wrestles God throughout the night until God overpowers him by dislocating Jacob’s hip. In response, “Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face-to-face, and yet my life was spared’” (Genesis 32:30). Tenacious wrestling with God, Jacob shows us, results in painful yet profitable comfort through communion.

      Interestingly, as the sun rose, Jacob was limping. He looks up and there’s Esau. Jacob limps up to Esau and, with the pain of his dislocated hip, bows down seven times. Imagine the pain. Then he receives from Esau an embrace instead of a dagger. He faced his fear, still wounded and scarred, but surviving. God humbled Jacob, weakened him, and in the process strengthened him.

      What’s illustrated in Jacob’s life is taught in Asaph’s story. According to Psalm 73:21-28, suffering is an opportunity for God to divulge more of Himself and to release more of His strength. When Asaph’s heart was grieved, and his spirit embittered, God brought him to his senses. Listen to his prayer. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). My flesh may be scarred, my heart may be scared, but with God I can survive—forever.

      Thus faith perceives that God feels our pain, joins us in our pain, even shares our pain. In fact, faith believes that, “in all my distress he too was distressed” (Isaiah 63:9). His sharing of our sorrow makes our sorrow endurable.    

      Faith does not demand the removal of suffering, but desires endurance in suffering, temptation, and persecution (1 Corinthians 10:13). Faith understands that what can’t be cured, can be endured.

      Faith delights in weakness, because when we are weak, then God is strong, and we are strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

            4.   Comfort and Competent Biblical Sustaining: Relationally Competent Interventions

      What biblical trialogues empower our spiritual friends to find God’s comfort in their suffering?

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

©       “Just as physical suffering leaves scars, so personal suffering leaves wounds. What are some of the wounds that your loss leaves you with? How can God help you to survive your wounds?”

©       “The Bible teaches that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ It’s normal to hurt and to struggle with depression when our wounds seem incurable. How could you connect with Christ and the Body of Christ to find relief for your sadness over your scars?”

©       “Sometimes life beats us down so much and scars us so deeply that we just want to quit. We want to retreat, to give up on God and on ourselves. How are you facing this temptation?”

©       “Jacob’s wound left him with a permanent limp. Ironically, it left him stronger than ever. How is that possible? How could that happen in your life?”

©       “Some wounds won’t be totally healed until heaven (Revelation 7). How can you connect to Christ’s resurrection power to face life with this wound?”

©       “What can’t be cured, can be endured. How is God fortifying you to survive your loss?”

©       “How would you know that God was tuned into your distress?”

©       “What is your suffering teaching you about God’s power made perfect in your weakness?”

©       “What passages have helped and strengthened you to deal with this?”

©       “What verses have you found helpful in gaining comfort and hope as you go through this?”

©       “If you were to write a Psalm 42, (David moving from confusion to comfort) what would you write?”

©       “What applications could you make from how Paul found comfort in his despair in 2 Corinthians?”

©       “Christ often comforts us through other Christians. Who is coming alongside to help and comfort you? How could you connect with other Christians so they could help you to bear your burdens?”

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Depression                             to Comfort?

III. Healing Sufferology: Waiting, Wailing, Weaving, and Worshipping—

      Biblical Diagnostic Indicators and Treatment Interventions for Assessing and

     Assisting in the Acceptance Process

      Healing is a term that describes the second phase in historic soul care. Today, we use terms like encouraging, enlightening, helping people to see the larger story of God’s perspective, infusing hope, etc. I like to picture healing with the powerful image of celebrating the resurrection. Your counselee or parishioner is moving from grieving to hope like the Apostle Paul was in 2 Corinthians 1:9-10. “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

      How do we help? Once we’ve climbed in the casket, we help by celebrating the resurrection. By helping people to find hope in God’s higher plan and loving purposes. Why do we help like this? Because we want them to know that it’s possible to hope in the midst of grief.

      Sustaining says, “life is bad.” Healing says, “God is good.” In sustaining, we enter their smaller earthly story of hurt. In healing, we enter their larger, heavenly story of hope. In sustaining, we acknowledge that they are victims who have been sinned against. In healing, we rejoice that they are victors over sin through Christ’s grace.

      Healing sufferology celebrates the resurrection by exploring waiting, wailing, weaving, and worshipping—the four biblical stages that define the acceptance process.

      A.  Waiting: Trusting with Faith Rather Than Regrouping with Self-Sufficiency

      You’re in a casket. Finally, you’ve come face-to-face with death and with utter human hopelessness. Do you want to stay there? No! Frantic to escape? Yes! You cry out to God for help. What’s he say? “Wait.” Now you’re at a faith-point. “I trust Him; I trust Him not. I’ll wait; I’ll not wait.” Which will it be? Will you wait or regroup? 

            1.   Regrouping Described

      John 4 illustrates the contrast between waiting and regrouping. The woman at the well was in a husband-casket. One husband left the scene, “Encore! Encore!” she’d shout, bringing the curtain down on another failed marriage. Frantically she searched time after time for a man she could have—a man she could desperately clutch who would meet her desperate needs by desperately desiring her above all else. 

      We don’t know what came next for her after she surrendered her thirsts to Christ. Certainly, if she were to live out her new Christ-life, she would have to change her habitual pattern of regrouping through “having” a man. Suppose that she took her longing to God in prayer. Presuppose God told her to stop living with this man who was not her husband. Don’t you think that on a human plane she would experience excruciating emptiness, starving hunger?

      So she prays to God, “Father, I know that all I need is You and what You choose to provide. I’m cleaning up my life. Would You please send me a godly man.” God says, “Wait. Delay your gratification. Don’t get involved with a man.” Everything inside her—her flesh-habituated past way of surviving, her cistern-digging style of relating—craves satisfaction now. If she regroups, she grasps yet another husband on the rebound. She takes matters into her own hands.

      So what would “hope” look like in her immediate context? Hoping in God, she would choose delayed gratification over immediate gratification. She would accept her singleness, clinging to God and trusting His timing.

      Hope waits. Hope is the refusal to demand heaven now.

            2.   Waiting Defined

      If hope leads to waiting, what then is waiting? Waiting is trusting God’s future provision without working to provide for myself. Waiting is refusing to take over while refusing to give up. Waiting refuses self-rescue.

      You’ll never see waiting as one of the stages in any research study because it is not natural in a fallen world. It is supernatural.

      I do a lot of ministry to ministers. A couple of years ago I was working with a pastor and his wife (we’ll call them Tim and Terri) in a situation where the pastor was fired, frankly, without cause. No moral failure. No doctrinal error. This pastor had been at the church for 20 years. It was the only home his three teenage daughters knew. It was the only job he had known since seminary.

      We worked through the candor, complaint, cry, and comfort process. When it came time for waiting, he battled. Everything in him wanted, almost desperately needed, to regroup. He was ready to take a church, any church, on the rebound. He was ready to take a job, any job, on the rebound. However, I counseled him to wait before making any long-term commitments to a new ministry position because I sensed that he was motivated by a desire for self-rescue, for regrouping, not by a desire to wait on God.

            3.   Waiting Biblically Supported

      Was my counsel godly or ungodly? Wise or foolish? Too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good? Can we find biblical support for the principle of waiting rather than regrouping?

      Waiting is rooted in the Old Testament. Prophets promised Israel that a better day was coming, later. The New Testament writers develop the waiting motif when they urge us toward patience, perseverance, longsuffering, and remaining under. That’s the message of Romans 5; James 1; 1 Peter 1-2; and Hebrews 11. In waiting, we hold on to God’s rope of hope, even when we can’t see it. In biblical waiting, we neither numb our longings nor illegitimately fulfill our longings.

      The opposite of waiting is meeting my “needs” now, taking matters into my own hands now, and acting as if I’m my only hope. Esau embodies regrouping through immediate gratification (Hebrews 11:16). For a single meal, a bowl of soup, he sold his birthright. He refused to look ahead, to wait, to delay gratification.

      Moses exemplifies delayed gratification and waiting.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:24-26, emphasis added). 

      No quick fix for Moses. No “Turkish Delight” from the White Witch of Narnia. No pleasures of sin for a season. Why? How could he? He chose eternal pleasure over temporal happiness. He remembered the future. Faith looks back to the past recalling God’s mighty works saying, “He did it that time, he can do it now.” Hope looks ahead remembering God’s coming reward saying, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:18-19). Hopeful waiting gives love time to take root.

 

            4.   Waiting and Competent Biblical Healing: Relationally Competent Interventions

 

Waiting may be the most difficult stage to trialogue about because I find it the most difficult stage to apply. It takes supernatural intervention. Consider some sample trialogue interventions.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

©       “God’s timing and ours are often light years apart. What are you experiencing as you wait on God?”

©       “When God wanted Esau to wait, he took matters into his own hands and messed everything up. Are you facing any similar temptations to handle your hurt on your own? To fix things in your own strength?”

©       “Abraham is a classic example of refusing to wait on God. He decided to help God out by having Hagar bare him a son. What were the horrible results of this in his life? What might the negative results be in your life if you take matters into your own hands?”

©       “You seem intent on handling this on your own. How has that worked for you before?”

©       “What would it look like for you to rest in God right now? For you to surrender to God? To trust instead of work, to wait instead of demand?”

©       “What have you done to not wait on God? What have you done to wait on God?”

©       “Someone once defined biblical perseverance as ‘remaining under without giving in.’ How are you remaining under your suffering without giving in to self-rescue? Where are you finding the strength to do this?”

©       “Could we explore some passages like Romans 5; James 1; 1 Peter 1, and Hebrews 11 that teach us how to wait on God in the midst of suffering?”

©       “How could you apply Moses’ delayed gratification, waiting, faith, and trust (Hebrews 11:24-26) to your situation?”

©       “What would it look like to not quit while this lingers?”

©       “What would quitting mean? What would it look like? What would result?”

©       “What will it look like to trust God while you wait on Him?”

©       “Let’s look at Revelation 7. How do these wonderful pictures of heaven give you hope today?”

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Regrouping                       to Waiting?

     

      B.  Wailing: Groaning with Hope Rather Than Deadening

      Stage five explores waiting versus regrouping while stage six ponders wailing versus deadening.

            1.   Deadening Described

      The barren Shunammite woman of 2 Kings 4 helps us to picture deadening. After years of barrenness, she bears a son who fulfills a lifetime of hopes and dreams. Tragically, he dies. Life sent her two caskets, the first her inability to conceive, the second the death of the child she finally bore.

      Rather than face her groaning, she repeats five times, “It’s all right.” Her heart is sick, her soul vexed, yet she keeps insisting, “It’s all right. I’m all right.”

      She eventually screams at Elisha, “Did I not say to you, ‘Don’t deceive me! Don’t get my hopes up.’” Deadening refuses to ever hope again, to ever dream again.

      Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Hope hoped for, received, then lost again, makes the heart deathly ill. Fragile. Needy. We hate being there, so we block it out. We deaden ourselves by refusing to hope, long, wail, or groan because groaning exposes us for the needy people that we are.

      The problem is, God made us longing, thirsting, hungering, desiring beings. So we follow a trillion different strategies for deadening our desires and shutting out the wail of our soul. We live as if this world is all there is. We refuse to hope for something more. We make it our goal to satisfy the flesh in order to quench the ache in our soul.

            2.   Wailing Defined

      What then is wailing, how would we define it? By wailing, I don’t mean weeping as in the complaint or cry of sustaining (though weeping often accompanies wailing). Wailing is longing for heaven and living passionately for God and others while still on earth.

      Paul epitomizes wailing in Philippians 1:23-25. “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of your for your progress and joy in the faith.” Paul neither deadens his longing for heaven nor does he minimize his calling on earth.

      Wailing is longing, hungering, thirsting, and wanting what is legitimate, what is promised, but what we do not have. It is grieving the “not yet.”

      How is wailing different from candor and complaint? Candor says, “I hate what has happened to me.” Complaint says, “God, I’m confused and devastated by what has happened to me.” Wailing says, “I wanna’ go home. This world is so messed up. I ache for Paradise. However, I’m pulling weeds till the day I die!”

      In the situation with the fired pastor, his wife, Terri, knew how to groan. She told me once, “Bob, everything in me wants to tell Tim to never, ever go into the pastorate again. He’s so wounded, and I’m so scared for him. Everything in me wants to say, ‘I’ll never be a pastor’s wife again.’”

      Then she leaned forward with this glimmer in her eyes as she said, “I watched the Les Mis DVD you loaned me. Fantine sang, ‘there are some storms you cannot weather,’ and ‘life has killed the dream I dreamed.’ By God’s grace, that’s not going to happen to me. I’m not going to quit feeling. I’m not going to quit living. I’m not going to quit connecting. I’ve experienced a taste of the fellowship of Christ’s suffering and I’ll never be the same. I’m more alive today than I have ever been in my life. God’s given me a vision of ministering to other women, to pastors’ wives.” Then she leaned back, engulfed in this restful, confident smile, almost a smirk. It’s been two years now. God’s fulfilling her dream.

            3.   Wailing Biblically Supported

      Was her wailing, her groaning with hope, biblical? What biblical support is there for wailing as a stage of acceptance, as God’s plan for responding to suffering? Consider Romans 8:18-25.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

      Paul couples suffering, frustration, eager waiting, and pregnant groaning. “Frustration” suggests the ache that we feel due to the emptiness and void we experience living in a fallen world. It’s the same Greek word (mataioteti) used in the Septuagint to translate Solomon’s word “vanity”—meaningless, soap bubbles, unsatisfying, pointless, absurd—all of this describes life south of heaven.

      “Eager waiting” pictures ferocious, desperate desire. When we wail, we declare how deeply out of the nest we are, how far from home we’ve wandered, and how much we long for heaven. 

      Paul illustrates our desperate desire using the image of pregnancy. He describes a woman groaning as in labor that lasts not hours, not nine months, but a lifetime. Imagine a pregnant woman in labor for seventy years! That's groaning. Groaning not only the pain of seemingly unending labor, but groaning the pain of not having the joy of the baby.

      That’s our current condition. For our allotted years on this blue planet, we’re pregnant with hope, groaning for Paradise, for Eden, for walking with God in the cool of the day, for being naked and unashamed, for shalom. When we groan, we admit to ourselves and express to God the pain of our unmet desires, the depth of our fervent longing for heaven’s joy, and our total commitment to remain pregnant with hope—labor for a lifetime.  

      And what’s the result? Weak, mournful surviving? No way. The result is thriving. In Romans 8:28-39, Paul insists that even in the midst of trouble, hardship, persecution, and suffering, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He teaches that in all our suffering we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so. “More than conquerors” comes from the Greek word nikao from which we gain our word “Nike”—victors, Olympic champions, winners. Wailing empowers us to long passionately for heaven and to live victoriously on earth. Wailing moves us from victims to victors in Christ. 

            4.   Wailing and Competent Biblical Healing: Relationally Competent Interventions

      How can we use scriptural explorations and spiritual conversations to empower people to long and live passionately? Let’s explore some samples.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

 

©       “The temptation when life beats us down is to not face life anymore. To survive, but not thrive. How are you facing this temptation?”

©       “What will it look like for you to keep hoping?”

©       “What thirst is this situation stirring up in your soul?”

©       “What are you longing for from God right now?”

©       “If you were to write a thirst Psalm like Psalm 42, how would you word it?”

©       “As Paul faced suffering, he groaned for heaven (Romans 8:17-25). What are your groanings like?”

©       “What would you want instead of what you are now experiencing?”

©       “How are your current sufferings causing you to long for heaven?”

©       “How is this situation helping you to realize that ‘this world is not your home’?”

©       “What testimony of future hope might spring from your current suffering?”

©       “Tell me about the earthly future you hope for. Tell me about the eternal future you hope for.”

©       “In Philippians 1:23-25, Paul says that he longs for heaven, but that he’s willing to stay on earth in order to glorify God and benefit others. How can you apply his choice to your life?”

©       “Satan wants to use your suffering to suck the life out of you. How can you connect to Christ’s resurrection power to find new life, new zeal for God? How can you not only survive, but thrive?”

©       “What person has been most influential on your beliefs and values? Picture that person experiencing what you are going through. How do you imagine her/him handling this?”

 

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Deadening                              to Wailing?

      C.  Weaving: Perceiving with Grace Rather Than Despairing and Doubting

      In stage five we move from regrouping to waiting, in stage six from deadening to wailing, and in stage seven from despairing to weaving—perceiving with grace. 

            1.   Despairing/Doubting Described

 

      To understand doubting, tract the world’s typical grief and acceptance process thus far. Suffering crashes upon us. In shock, we deny its reality. At some point, our emotions can no longer suppress the truth and we explode with anger. Anger doesn’t get us what we want, so we switch tactics and try bargaining, behaving, and good works. No matter what we try, we can’t manage our loss. Depression sets in, alienation.

      At some point, the depression lifts a tad. We figure we have to get on with life somehow. We regroup. We re-enter the game, not with a new heart, but with no other choice. The game’s still rough, it still hurts, so we do what we can to suppress the pain—maybe workaholism, maybe ministryaholism, maybe counselaholism, whatever. But like the Shunammite woman, life assaults us again, only worse. None of our strategies work. Now what? What do we do? What do we feel? How do we respond? What do we think? We despair. We doubt. We give up any hope of ever making life work and of ever figuring out the mystery of life, of ever completing the puzzle. We trudge on in doubt, despair, and darkness. Despair is the negative of hope.

            2.   Weaving Defined

      So what’s weaving? Weaving is entrusting myself to God’s larger purposes, good plans, and eternal perspective. It’s seeing life with spiritual eyes instead of eyeballs only. It’s looking at suffering, not with rose colored glasses, but with faith eyes, with Cross-eyes, with 20/20 spiritual vision. 

      When Terri returned for her next appointment, I asked her what made the difference in her life, what helped her to turn the corner. She said, “two things, no, two people. Joseph and the Bishop.” Joseph we’ll talk about in a minute. The Bishop we’ll talk about now.

      As I mentioned, I had asked Terri to watch Les Mis. There’s a classic scene where the star of the story, Jean val Jean, a paroled prisoner, takes advantage of the Bishop of Digne. Stealing from him, val Jean is captured by the French police. They return him to the Bishop, fully expecting the Bishop to implicate val Jean which would lead to a return to prison without hope for parole.

      To the shock of everyone involved, the Bishop says, “But my brother, you forgot these,” and hands him silver candlesticks. The police release val Jean and leave. Then the Bishop says, “by the witness and the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, I have bought your soul for God, now become an honest man, see in this some higher plan.” Val Jean, floored by grace, changed by grace, concludes the scene by singing, “another story must begin.”

      Terri, recounting this to me, said, “Now everything that happens to me, I’m looking for God’s higher plan. I’m setting my thoughts on things above—always wondering what God might be up to in this. For me, another story must begin—God’s story that doesn’t obliterate my painful story, but that gives it meaning.”

            3.   Weaving Biblically Supported

      Was Terri’s approach a biblical stage in the acceptance process? What biblical support can we find for weaving? Weaving is everywhere in Scripture. We find weaving in passages like John 14; Romans 8; Ephesians 3; Colossians 3; Hebrews 11; and Revelation 19-22.

      I promised that we’d return to Joseph. Hear his words to his fearful family in Genesis 50:19-20. “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph uses “intended” both for his brothers’ plans and God’s purposes. The Hebrew word has a very tangible sense of to weave, to plait, to interpenetrate as in the weaving together of fabric to fashion a robe, perhaps even a coat of many colors. It was also used in a negative, metaphorical sense to suggest a malicious plot, the devising of a cruel scheme. Other times the Jews used intended to symbolically picture the creation of some new and beautiful purpose or result through the weaving together of seemingly haphazard, miscellaneous, or malicious events.    

      “Life is bad,” Joseph admits. “You plotted against me for evil. You intended to spoil or ruin something wonderful. “God is good,” Joseph insists. “God wove good out of evil,” choosing a word for “good” that is the superlative of pleasant, beautiful. That is, God intended to create beauty from ashes. Joseph discovers healing through God’s grace narrative. Further, he offers his blundering brothers tastes of grace.

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt (Genesis 45:5-8).

      Amazing! I hope you caught the words. “To save lives,” “to preserve,” “by a great deliverance.” That’s a grace narrative, a salvation narrative. Had God not preserved a remnant of Abraham’s descendents, then Jesus would never have been born. Joseph uses his spiritual eyes to see God’s great grace purposes in saving not only Israel and Egypt, but also the entire world.

      I hope you also caught Joseph’s repetition. “God sent me.” “God sent me ahead of you.” “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” Joseph sees the smaller story of human scheming for ruin. However, Joseph perceives that God trumps that smaller scheme with His larger purpose by weaving beauty out of ugly.

      Life hurts. Wounds penetrate. Without grace narratives, hopelessness and bitterness flourish. With a grace narrative, hope and forgiveness flow and perspective grows. 

            4.   Weaving and Competent Biblical Healing: Relationally Competent Interventions

      We can stir up that perspective with weaving trialogues like the following.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

©       “In what ways do you think the world, the flesh, and the Devil are trying to creep into your thinking (1 John 4:1-6; Galatians 5:13-21; Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:10-18)?”

©       “If you did not have the Scriptures, how would your perspective on this situation be different?”

©       “What passages have you found helpful in gaining a new perspective on your suffering?”

©       “When else have you experienced suffering like this? What did you learn about God in that situation? What would you repeat and what would you change?”

©       “How could you relate Paul’s perspective on his suffering in Romans 8:17-28 to your life? How could taking on his perspective alter your perspective?”

©       “God promises that all things work together for good for His children (Romans 8:28). What are your thoughts about that promise? What do you think about a passage like that as it relates to your suffering? What good purposes has God already provided to you or in you through these events?”

©       “What might God be wanting to accomplish in your life through your circumstances?”

©       “God is all-powerful, holy, and in control of everything. What impact do these characteristics of God have on you as you face this?”

©       “What applications can you make from Joseph’s conviction that though people intend things for our harm, God weaves them together for our good?”

©       “How could you emulate Joseph and forgive those who intended you harm? What would that forgiveness look like?”

©       “Let’s explore passages on forgiveness such as Matthew 18:21-35; 2 Corinthians 2:3-11; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:8-17.”

©       “Let’s explore passages on reconciliation and restitution such as Matthew 18:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:11-13; 2 Corinthians 7:8-13.”

©       “What dead things do you anticipate Christ resurrecting? What will your resurrected life look like it?”

 

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Doubting to                       Weaving?

 

 

      D.  Worshipping: Responding with Love Rather Than Digging Cisterns

      As we progress through the stages of healing, we are transformed from regrouping to waiting, from deadening to wailing, from despair to weaving, and from digging cisterns to worshipping.

            1.   Digging Cisterns Described

      God describes digging cisterns in Jeremiah 2:13. “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” In the ANE, you had two choices for life-giving water. You could settle near a clear, pure, bubbling spring of fresh underground water, or you could dig a cistern which captured run-off water, held it in a stagnant well, that often cracked leaking in more filth and leaking out water.

      Spiritual cistern digging involves rejecting God as our Spring of Living Water because we see Him as unsatisfying, unholy, and unloving. Once we reject the only Being in the universe who could ever satisfy the last aching abyss of our souls, we have no choice but to turn to substitutes—worthless, putrid substitutes—cisterns.    

      Put yourself back in that casket. You’ve tried to claw your way out through immediate gratification. Your bowl of soup may be power, prestige, pleasure, pleasing people, or any multitude of pathways of relating. Since soup never satisfies the soul, only the stomach, you still ache. What to do with your ache? Well, if you face it, then you have to admit your insufficiency. That simply will not do. So you deaden it. You block out and suppress the reality of your hungry heart. Keep busy. Fantasize. Climb the corporate ladder. These tricks of the godless trade work no better than immediate gratification. Somewhere, deep down inside, despair brews. “Is this all there is?”

      Now what? If you follow the beaten path, then despair guides you to false lovers. Idols of the heart. Digging cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Something or someone who will rescue you from agony’s clutches—or so you imagine. 

            2.   Worshipping Defined

      What then, is worship? Let’s start with some subtle contrasts. In cry, you cry out for God’s help; in worship, you cry out for God. In comfort, you receive God’s strength; in worship, you experience God. In wailing, you long for heaven because you’re tired of earth; in worship, you long for God because you miss Him. In weaving, you glimpse God’s perspective; in worship, you glimpse the face of God.

      So what is worship in the context of suffering? Worship is wanting God more than wanting relief. Worship is finding God even if we don’t find answers. Worship is walking with God in the dark and having Him as the light of our soul.

      About a month ago I received an email from Terri. She began with words I’m sure she typed with a smile. “Guess what? Not everything’s perfect at our new church.” I smiled knowingly as I read her first line. She continued, “But God is. God is perfectly beautiful. Perfectly holy. Perfectly in control. Perfectly good.” Terri is glimpsing the face of God. She’s worshipping.

 

            3.   Worshipping Biblically Supported

      Many passages support the concept of worship in the midst of suffering and worship as the end result of suffering. Every problem is an opportunity to know God better and our primary battle is to know God well. Thus we ask a core soul care question, “How are these problems influencing your relationship to God?” They can either shove us far from Him or drag us kicking and screaming closer to Him. As the hymn writer poetically states it:

      Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. 

      Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. 

      Be still, my soul: the best thy heavenly Friend, Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

      This has been the experience of saints throughout biblical history. Asaph, reflecting on his suffering, concludes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you (Psalm 73:25). David concurs, as his suffering creates a God-thirst. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).

      Peter, in the New Testament, explains the purpose of problems, teaching that they come so that our faith in God may be refined, then concludes with these words about suffering’s significance, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filed with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Peter’s message reminds us of Paul as he looks back upon a lifetime of suffering and says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:8, 10).

      Throughout Mourning Into Dancing, Walter Wangerin explains that suffering and death are meant to teach us our need again. In suffering, God is not getting back at you, He is getting you back to him. “The actual experience of dying persuades the little god that he is finite after all” (Wangerin, Mourning Into Dancing, p. 76).

      Suffering opens our hands to God. It was Augustine who declared, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there is nowhere for Him to put it.”

      God makes therapeutic use of our suffering. Suffering, as Martin Luther taught, creates in the child of God a delicious despair. Suffering is God’s putrid tasting medicine of choice resulting in delicious healing. Healing medicine for our ultimate sickness—the arrogance that we do not need God. The arrogance that anything but God could ever satisfy our soul. Suffering’s ultimate goal is worship. Suffering’s ultimate goal is knowing and worshipping God as our Spring of Living Water—our only satisfaction and our greatest joy.

            4.   Worshipping and Competent Biblical Healing: Relationally Competent Interventions

      Let’s explore some biblical trialogues that lead to worship in the midst of suffering—to suffering face-to-face with God.

                  a.   Trialogues: Scriptural Explorations and Spiritual Conversations

©       “How are these problems influencing your relationship to God?”

©       “Satan wants to use suffering to cause us to doubt God and turn to false idols of the heart. In what ways have you faced such temptation? How are you overcoming them?”

©       “As difficult as your suffering is, what lessons is it teaching you about your desire for God?”

©       “Facing his suffering, Asaph said, ‘Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you’ (Psalm 73:25). In what ways are you responding to suffering like Asaph?”

©       “Paul’s suffering drove him to want to know Christ. What is your suffering driving you to want?”

©       “How have you been able to worship God in the middle of this?”

©       “What would it be like to worship God as you go through this?”

©       “In what ways is God drawing you nearer to Himself through your suffering?”

©       “What would it feel like for you to turn to Christ in the middle of this?”

©       “Even in your suffering, where are you finding tastes of Christ as the Lover of your soul?”

©       “How is all of this helping you to cling to Christ, to depend on Him, to hunger and thirst for Him?”

©       “We’ve talked about how the ‘whole world is watching’ when God’s child suffers. They’re watching to see if God’s heart is trustworthy. What message do you want to send? Are you sending?”          

©       “Who do you suppose is watching you and wondering, ‘How’s she/he doing this? Why does she/he still cling to Christ?’ What would you tell them?”

 

                  b.   Implementation: What Could You Do to Empower People to Move from Digging                             Cisterns to Worship?

 

 

The Big Question: Creative Suffering or Destructive Suffering?

      It’s clear that there is a typical way to respond to suffering. That typical way does not typically factor God into the equation. It’s equally and biblically clear that there’s a better way, God’s way to respond to suffering. We can face suffering face-to-face with God and we can empower our clients and parishioners to do so if we will follow a biblical theology of suffering—a sufferology.

      To help solidify the concepts in your mind and to help you to use the concepts in your ministry, you’ll find four pages of resources at the end of these notes. The first two pages provide a sufferology treatment plan for diagnosis and treatment of the eight stages of suffering. The third page you can use to practice your diagnosis of healthy or unhealthy suffering responses. The final page offers a select bibliography of other resources that you will find helpful for further research.

Sufferology Treatment Plan Sheet

Part I: Sustaining Treatment Planning

Sustaining in Suffering—“It’s Normal to Hurt and Necessary to Grieve.”

      Stage                  Typical Grief Response                           Biblical Grief Response

      Stage One                    Denial                                                         Candor: Honest with Self

      Stage Two                    Anger                                                         Complaint: Honest to God

      Stage Three                  Bargaining/Works                                       Cry: Asking God for Help

      Stage Four                   Depression/Alienation                                 Comfort: Receiving God’s Help

Sufferology Diagnostic Indicators: Sustaining

¨       Sustaining Stage One: Is my spiritual friend practicing denial or candor?

¨       Sustaining Stage Two: Is my spiritual friend practicing anger or complaint?

¨       Sustaining Stage Three: Is my spiritual friend practicing bargaining/works or cry?

¨       Sustaining Stage Four: Is my spiritual friend practicing depression/alienation or comfort?

Sufferology Treatment Plan Evaluators: Sustaining

¨       Sustaining Stage One: How can I move with my spiritual friend from denial to candor?

¨       Sustaining Stage Two: How can I move with my spiritual friend from anger to complaint?

¨       Sustaining Stage Three: How can I move with my spiritual friend from works to cry?

¨       Sustaining Stage Four: How can I move with my spiritual friend from depression to comfort?

Sufferology Treatment Plan Sheet

Part II: Healing Treatment Planning

Healing in Suffering—“It’s Possible to Hope in the Midst of Grief.”

      Stage                     Typical Acceptance Response          Biblical Acceptance Response

      Stage One              Regrouping                                     Waiting: Trusting with Faith

      Stage Two              Deadening                                            Wailing: Groaning with Hope

      Stage Three            Despairing/Doubting                             Weaving: Perceiving with Grace

      Stage Four             Digging Cisterns                                    Worshipping: Engaging with Love

Sufferology Diagnostic Indicators: Healing

¨       Healing Stage One: Is my spiritual friend practicing regrouping or waiting?

¨       Healing Stage Two: Is my spiritual friend practicing deadening or wailing?

¨       Healing Stage Three: Is my spiritual friend practicing despairing/doubting or weaving?

¨       Healing Stage Four: Is my spiritual friend practicing digging cisterns or worshipping?

Sufferology Treatment Plan Evaluators: Healing

¨       Healing Stage One: How can I move with my spiritual friend from regrouping to waiting?

¨       Healing Stage Two: How can I move with my spiritual friend from deadening to wailing?

¨       Healing Stage Three: How can I move with my spiritual friend from despairing/doubting to weaving?

¨       Healing Stage Four: How can I move with my spiritual friend from digging cisterns to worshipping?

Maturing Your Spiritual Friendship Competency

Diagnosis of Healthy or Unhealthy Responses to Suffering

1.   A spiritual friend tells you that he/she has just discovered that his/her teenage son is using drugs.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if in denial.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing candor—honesty with self.

2.   In your second meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage two.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if consumed by anger.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing complaint—honesty with                   God.

3.   In your third meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage three.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing works and bargaining.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing cry—asking God for help.

4.   In your fourth meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage four.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing alienation and depression.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing comfort—receiving God’s                help.

5.   In your fifth meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage five.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing regrouping.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing waiting.

6.   In your sixth meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage six.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing deadening.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing wailing.

7.   In your seventh meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage seven.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing despairing/doubting.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing weaving.

8.   In your eighth meeting, your spiritual friend has moved to stage eight.

      a.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing digging cisterns.

      b.   Summarize what your spiritual friend might say and do if practicing worshipping.

Select Bibliography

Aden, L. “Comfort/Sustaining.” Pages 193-195 in The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Edited by R. J. Hunter. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990.

Bissler, Jane. “Counseling for Loss and Life Changes.” http://www.counselingforloss.com (accessed August 1, 2004).

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.

Carson, David. How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. Leicester, UK: InterVarsity, 1990.

Clebsch, William, and Charles Jaekle. Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective. New York: Harper, 1964. 

Davies, Gaius. Genius, Grief, and Grace. Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1992.

Davison, R. The Courage to Doubt: Exploring an Old Testament Theme. London: SCM Press, 1983.

Gibson, J. C. “The Book of Job and the Cure of Souls.” Scottish Journal of Theology 42 (1990): 303-317.

Graham, L. K. “Healing.” Pages 497-501 in The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Edited by R. J. Hunter. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990. 

John of the Cross. Dark Night of the Soul. Edited and translated by Allison Peers. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Kellemen, Robert. Soul Physicians: A Theology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Vol. 1 of The Soul Physician’s Library. Taneytown, MD: RPM Books, 2004.

–––––. “Spiritual Care in Historical Perspective: Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Kent State University, 1997.

–––––. Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Vol. 2 of The Soul Physician’s Library. Taneytown, MD: RPM Books, 2004.

Keller, Timothy. “Puritan Resources for Pastoral Counseling.” Journal of Pastoral Practice 9, no. 3 (1988): 11-44.   

Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. Reprint edition. San Francisco: Scribner, 1997.

Lake, Frank. Clinical Theology. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966.

Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1962.

Luther, Martin. Devotional Writings I. Vol. 42 of Luther’s Works. Edited and translated by M. O. Deitrich. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.

McNeil, John. A History of the Cure of Souls. New York: Harper, 1951.

Oden, Thomas. Classical Pastoral Care. 4 Vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987.

Packer, J. I. Rediscovering Holiness. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1992.

Shive, David. Night Shift: God Works in the Dark Hours of Life. Lincoln, NB: Back to the Bible Publishing, 2001.

Strohl, J. E. “Luther’s Fourteen Consolations.” Lutheran Quarterly 3 (1989): 169-182.

Tappert, G. Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. Vol. 18 in The Library of Christian Classics. Edited by J. Baillie, J. McNeil, and H. van Dusen. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955.

Waite, Terry. Taken on Trust. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1993.

Wangerin, Walter. Mourning Into Dancing. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.

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