It’s a good time to be a Christian woman who writes. I have benefited from the writing of many godly women who have pointed me to Jesus and opened the Scriptures to me in the pages of their books. Christina Fox is one such writer. I’ve enjoyed reading Christina for a long time. Her writing is Christ-centered, filled with Scripture, and done well. So I was excited to read her new book, A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament. It did not disappoint.
I’ll be honest, when I opened the package that contained her book I knew it was exactly what I needed in this current season of my life. For a number of reasons, I find myself regularly going to the Psalms for comfort and words for the myriad of emotions I feel on a daily basis. I go to the Psalms to remember who God is, even when my heart tells me otherwise. I go to the Psalms to know that I’m not the first one who has felt like God is distant, has forgotten me, or isn’t acting in my best interest.
If that’s you right now, or all of you one day, this book is for you.
At the outset, Christina says that the purpose of the book is “to face the reality of our emotions. Instead of hiding them, distracting ourselves from them, or avoiding them, we are going to face them head on. We are going to walk right into the pain” (17). Through this honest discussion of the emotions, Christina shows us that Christ truly is the hope for every pain we face, every sorrow we carry, and every disappointment we endure. She helpfully reminds us that emotions are part of being human. We all have them in varying degrees. Instead of presenting a stoic form of Christianity, Christina deals honestly with the emotions we face on a regular basis and provides us with hope for when those emotions take over us.
The two most helpful things I found in this book were the questions at the end of each chapter and the practical application to how to use the laments to respond to our emotions. The questions at the end of each chapter really brought the content of the chapter home for me. Usually she would provide a psalm to look up and apply the teaching to your own life, or she would ask pointed questions to get to the heart of what you had just learned. This was a good exercise for me, especially as one who is currently struggling with emotions that feel a little out of control at times. It encouraged me to see for myself that the emotions I face on a daily basis are not unique to me, but are common to those who have gone before me. I felt as though I was being mentored by the psalmist as I worked through her questions.
The second helpful thing for me was her application, particularly in the two chapters: “Crying Out to God” and “Asking for Help”. Both of these exhortations seem rather simple, but when you are drowning in your own emotions, sorrow, difficulty, or whatever ails you, it’s hard to put this into practice. Sometimes you need a reminder that God is not surprised by your crying out to him (he already knows what you are going through) and that he is a God who delights in giving help to his children. The psalmists did both of these things in their laments because they knew the character of God, they were banking on his revealed character to act on their behalf. I was convicted by my own weak attempts to cry out to God in my own distress. I sometimes don’t even think to do it, revealing an even more troubling condition in my own heart—I don’t believe he will act in my favor.
The psalmists wrestled with the complexities of this life. They wrestled with their own sin. They wrestled with wrongs done against them. They wrestled with God’s purposes for them. This should be an encouragement to us because we wrestle with these very same things today. The Psalms of lament are for us as much as they were for ancient Israel. Human beings still struggle with emotions. Human beings still need God to act on their behalf. We all can learn from the Psalms of lament, and we all can learn from Christina Fox’s new book.