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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

Book Bites: Michael Card

By Cheryl Arnold

Many people know Michael Card for his Christian songs such as El Shaddai, which was popularized by Amy Grant, and Heal Our Land, which was commissioned in 1993 as the theme song for the National Day of Prayer. While Card is best known for his award-winning music, he is also an author and teacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biblical studies. Two of his books include A Sacred Sorrow and Inexpressible, and in both of them Card makes connections between lament and hesed (God’s lovingkindness).

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

Last spring my Journey group spent several weeks studying suffering. The lessons generated so much discussion that we decided to explore the topic further by reading A Sacred Sorrow. This book was the 2006 winner of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) award in Christian Life, and Card begins by examining the nature of biblical lament. He says that lament is so important that without it our personal worship experience is incomplete and we are robbed of our true identity before God. Card then goes on to examine the lives of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus and how each of them poured their hearts out to the Father in suffering and lament. Card concludes, “Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence. The language of lament gives a meaningful form to our grief by providing a vocabulary for our suffering and then offering it to God as worship.” Some helpful appendices include a list of biblical lamenters, a list of lament psalms, suggestions for how to journal your own laments, and some extra-biblical laments from the past and present. My Journey group agreed that this book helped each of us deepen our relationship with God.

Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness

The Hebrew word hesed occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament. It is a word so rich in meaning that Bible translators have struggled to translate it into English. Some words and phrases often used to translate hesed include lovingkindness, covenant faithfulness, and steadfast love. This book, though, is not a study in translation. It is the story of how God reveals his hesed in his relationships with David, Moses, Jeremiah, and Hosea, and how we see hesed fulfilled in Jesus. Card concludes by using Micah 6:8 to challenge us to enter into the world of hesed and then take it into our own world—to our families, our churches, our communities, and even our enemies. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness [hesed], and to walk humbly with your God?” In reading this book, you will discover what it means to be “people of an everlasting love beyond words.”

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