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Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down

Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down

4.3 9
by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
If you had told Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira while she was crying on the kitchen floor that she could find a way to praise God in this situation, she wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, she might have thrown something at you. Looking around at a life that was disappointingly different from what she’d dreamed, she couldn’t imagine honestly singing


If you had told Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira while she was crying on the kitchen floor that she could find a way to praise God in this situation, she wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, she might have thrown something at you. Looking around at a life that was disappointingly different from what she’d dreamed, she couldn’t imagine honestly singing out a hallelujah. But then it occurred to her that, well, maybe she could manage to grumble one.

Have you been there? During life’s lowest moments, it is so tempting to blame ourselves, our circumstances, or God. But what would happen if we turned to God and managed to praise him instead, in whatever way we could? Might he show up and help us find the things in our lives that he made to be loved? Grumble Hallelujah offers humor, candid stories, and solid scriptural backing that will help you see clearly just how your life is meant to be lived—and loved.

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Tyndale House Publishers
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grumble hallelujah

By Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-3801-9

Chapter One


Letting Go of the Life That Was "Supposed to Be"

Years ago, when the whole hanging chad debacle ended Al Gore's shot at the White House, my husband and I snuggled together on our brand-new sofa in our brand-new house (well, new to us) watching the news on our brand-new TV as we did nearly every night in our pre-kid life. And we talked about how sad this was for Al Gore.

Though, to be honest, I remember feeling less sad for Al and more pity. I pitied him in the way only someone whose life is going exactly according to plan—with many dreams fulfilled or ready to be grasped—can pity another person. It's that horrible, smug kind of pity, which I used to feel a lot back in those easy days.

But whether it was sadness or pity, I felt for Al Gore because he was "a man widely believed to have been groomed for the U.S. presidency from birth." Meaning, his presidential aspirations weren't simply born out of the "Boy, you could even grow up and be president" sort of way many of us hear (with or without the "boy" part)—but that nobody actually believes will happen.

His dreams came from being the son of a "Washington insider." Young Al was sent to the right schools, surrounded by the right people, and even kept from playing the wrong instruments. (Talk about a political-stage mom: Mrs. Gore apparently made Al quit violin because "future world leaders do not play the violin." Whoa, boy.)

Anyway, you see my point: Al Gore's life was supposed to go a certain way. And for many years it did. I imagine that he was all smiles during his vice presidency under the popular Bill Clinton (and if we're honest, he probably had his fingers crossed during those impeachment hearings!). Everything had lined up in his favor; his presidential destiny was right there—a tiny finger stretch away—his for the grabbing.

Then came the day—after months of lawsuits and recounts and Supreme Court hearings—when he realized he had lost his bid, lost hold of his destiny. It was then that I remember saying to my husband (and here's the point of this little walk down election-memory lane): "Aw, man. He's gonna need to grieve this."

So you'd think that several years down the pike, when my own life started unraveling—when my own life became pitiful—that I'd have remembered this "gonna need to grieve" piece of wisdom I so handily offered up to Al Gore.

But I didn't. I like to think that centuries of Swedish blood pulsing through my veins kept that from happening. It was as if every bit of my staunch ancestors' DNA yelled up to my brain: Don't go there! We don't do grief! You know how we like it—bury it deep, keep it down, and just move forward! And for goodness sake, don't talk about it! Now get back to work.

This is precisely why, even now, even when I know better, when I know that my dear beloved ancestors didn't have it exactly right, I'm so loathe to dive into this chapter. Grieving doesn't come naturally to me. If it does to you, awesome! You're already way ahead of the curve.

But I hate it. I hate entering into pain and processing it. So why do it? Why do I think grieving the life we miss or the one we wish we had is the first thing we need to do as part of our "detox" program? Why is it step one in learning to love our lives? Because grief is an essential part of the human experience, and because in our grief, God works wonders.

Why Grieve

Before you go nuts and catch me on technicalities, I'm not saying that grief itself is a toxin. But unacknowledged or un-dealt-with grief totally is (in fact, I believe it leads to some of the toxins we'll work on in upcoming chapters). We need to admit when life has gone astray or even all wrong. We need to acknowledge—cry out to God!—when life disappoints, when something important gets lost, and when we hurt because of it.

And we need to give ourselves (and others) permission to grieve the loss of dreams, of the life we thought we'd have, of roles we longed for, of relationships we thought would always exist, or whatever we desired but haven't gotten.

For a long time, I didn't think I had permission to do this. I didn't think it was right. I suppose I thought it was sinful. Because while we certainly understand the need to grieve the "big stuff " of life—like death or divorce or infertility—for much of the rest of it, grieving seems to run contrary to a good Christian life. It's not easy to admit we're a bit down because we're grieving a loss as "silly" as not having the family we imagined or the job we always wanted or, say, the income or lifestyle we thought we'd have.

And yet, if I'm being totally honest, I have to admit that much of the "stuff " that got me on the floor during my dark midafternoon of the soul was related to exactly that: to money, to our "reversal of fortunes." My life wasn't supposed to be about debt. About business loss or free-falling income. A person like me (raised in a well-off home, educated, and equipped with a work ethic to shame the Puritans) who was married to a man (smart as they come, with a knack for taking risks that paid off in only-in-America types of reward) wasn't supposed to live day to day, worried about mortgage payments on a modest home or how we'd get new summer clothes for the kids. A visit to the grocery store wasn't supposed to stress me out, as I wondered if my credit card would be rejected.

But could I grieve this?

So what about the other big "not supposed to be's" of my life during that period? Could I grieve the loss of picture-perfect holidays at my childhood home because of my parents' divorce? The loss of security—emotional and financial—within my own marriage? My loneliness and lack of meaningful friendships?

I mean, no matter how hurtful my grievances are to me personally, when we consider the vast scope of world problems, they hardly top the list. Could a good Christian girl really grieve the supposed-to-be's of life without being a big whiner?

You might ask yourself the same sorts of questions: What about the things that bring pain in your own life? What about those dreams you once had that now seem impossible? What about the life—or lifestyle—you thought you'd be living? Does God want you to grieve these things?

Left to my own devices, I'd still listen to the voices of my stoic ancestors. But I couldn't shake a pretty basic truth: God doesn't want me listening to my ancestors. God wants me listening to him. So to the Bible I went. But while I searched, I also tossed out the challenge to some friends. I asked for examples from the Bible of people who grieved over, not the big tragedies, but the more banal supposed-to-be's of life.

Turns out, my friends are smart people. They suggested everyone from the obvious Naomi and Job (who grieved losses of everything!) to Moses grieving not being able to enter the Promised Land to Rachel grieving a pregnancy she had been desperate to have. Some of the grief made sense, some seemed weird, but all of it made me realize how patient our God is. And the good that grief can do when placed in God's hands.

Bible Grievers


"Does the Lord count?" Janine asked in response to my Great Grievers of the Bible Challenge.

Um, yeah. I hadn't thought of him as a griever, but I'd say he counts. Wouldn't you?

So Janine wrote back: "Well, the Lord grieved over making humans in the first place, and he grieved over making Saul king."

Righty-o! Check out these passages, with my helpful emphases:

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (Genesis 6:5-6, NIV, emphasis mine)

The word of the Lord came to Samuel: "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11, NIV, emphasis mine)

So if God grieved, it must be okay, right? It's an actual image-bearing thing to do, in fact. While the fall of humankind and rampant wickedness that God grieved could probably be classified as a "big thing," when you read it from the perspective of the Creator watching everything go all wrong, it begins to look a lot like what grieving was supposed to be. Certainly, that's what was going on with Saul. He wasn't supposed to turn into a king who followed his own ways instead of God's. Hence, the regret and disappointment on God's part. (Of course, what's peculiar is that our omniscient God must have seen this coming, but that's a whole other conversation.)

I wrote earlier that grieving is an essential part of the human experience, but clearly, it's also an essential part of the God experience. A process in which something mighty happens. This helps explain (at least in my mind) one of the most bizarre grief sequences in Scripture: when Jesus weeps at his friend Lazarus's death.

I say this is bizarre because for days Jesus had been saying how Lazarus wouldn't end up dead. Then he tells Martha directly that he will raise her brother from the dead. Instead of being a "not supposed to be," this was a huge God-ordained event, a supposed-to-be if there ever was one! Jesus even said that Lazarus would be raised "for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4, NIV).

And yet, when our Jesus saw his dead friend, we know what happened (every former smart-aleck Sunday school student told to memorize their "favorite" verse can say it with me now): "Jesus wept" (John 11:35, NIV).

As bizarre as it might be, Jesus' grief just moments before miraculously raising his friend from the dead actually offers us a clue into what God-style grief can be about and how God uses grief to raise us up. We can't deny the grief-redemption or grief-resurrection connection.

Grieving, shedding tears, emptying ourselves of hurt seems to clear up room for God to work. While our grief may not allow us to raise friends from the dead, our grieving can bring other things—like peace, mercy, and joy—back to life.


When I first saw Esau's name on a friend's reply to my query, I thought, What? Esau? Blech. No! Can't stand that guy.

You know, he smells like a field (which sounds lovely, but since fields don't come with baths, I'm sure is not). He has hair like a goat. I picture him with blood and guts caked under his raggedy fingernails. Esau is just gross, right? And stupid—trading Jacob his birthright for some stew? So I ignored him.

But apparently, God didn't want him ignored. Because a couple of Sundays after writing him off, my pastor preached on Esau. About his grief, no less. About his agony of being stripped of his birthright and his father's blessing. And after Pastor Bert read Esau's heart-wrenching pleas and screams ("Bless me—me too, my father!" [Genesis 27:34, NIV] and "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!"[Genesis 27:38, NIV]) and after seeing this through a new lens, through my own pain and similar pleas with God, my heart changed for Esau. My heart broke for Esau, actually. When Pastor Bert described Esau's cry and pleas of "Bless me, too!" as the cry and plea of "a thousand have-nots in a world of haves," I was a goner for this guy. Oh, Esau.

After a lifetime of rolling my eyes at this goat-stinkin' man, I understood Esau. Totally. (I am a firstborn, after all. We have rights!) His life wasn't supposed to be about getting tricked out of his birthright—his inheritance, his home, his family, his future. But as it turned out, that's exactly what became of it. And he "wept aloud" (a.k.a. grieved) for the life he was supposed to have.

So what does God say about this kind of grief? We don't know exactly. But there's no mocking it. God doesn't seem to curse him for it—send plagues or ruin his life. In fact, quite the opposite. Because if we flip forward a few chapters to Genesis 33—after Jacob ran off to Uncle Laban's, married Leah and Rachel, grew rich, and wrestled with God, and after Esau found his own fortune—we see a reunion between these once-bitter rivals.

I love this story. Rightfully terrified of his brother's wrath, before heading home after probably twenty years, Jacob sends hundreds of goats, camels, cows, and donkeys as gifts to appease his brother. When they finally see each other, Jacob bows to the ground in humility. Genesis 33:4 (NIV) says, "But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."

Then Esau asks about the kids and tries to refuse the gifts of the animals (in one of those gracious "oh, you didn't have to!" declines). Esau didn't need them—he was rich himself.

Finally, after all the denials and smiles comes my favorite line. Jacob tells Esau, "If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably" (v. 10, NIV, emphasis mine). Ah, yeah. Jacob experiences grace from his big brother—and sees the face of God.

Now I hate to read too much into this—and granted, many years have gone by—but don't you think that Esau's grief—his crying out to God, his frustrated yells of "bless me too, father!"—helped get him to this place where he could offer grace? We don't see much of what happened between Esau and God in this story. But it seems that maybe his honest, raw response to getting gypped out of what was supposed to be his helped this broken human show the face of God to his brother.

I could go on and on, dipping deep into the stories of many of God's children who were disappointed, hurt, and grieved. But attention spans flicker, and we've got more to get to, so let me just point to two other quick places.

The Lamenter

When Jeremiah (mostly likely it was him, at least) wrote Lamentations, he, along with the rest of his nation, was having a rough go of things, to say the least. The Lamenter's life stinks, and he's letting God know it. Throughout this poem he lambasts God for such things as walling him in, chaining him down, piercing his heart, and breaking his teeth with gravel. I'd be lamenting too.

But the part that really gets me in this book goes like this: "I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord'" (Lamentations 3:17-18, NIV).

Here's what's so great. Not only is this guy grieving his (and Israel's) supposed to be's, but just after he writes—for God and the world to see—these devastating words of lost dreams and hope in God, he adds this:

    I remember my affliction and my wandering,
        the bitterness and the gall.
    I well remember them,
        and my soul is downcast within me.
    Yet this I call to mind
        and therefore I have hope:
    Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
        for his compassions never fail.
    They are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness. (vv
. 19-23, NIV)

Could it be then that this writer, like Esau, got to this amazing place of recognizing God's goodness through his grief? Could it have been his searing and beautiful cries to God that ended up sweetening his bitterness and soothing his gall?

When he remembers the pain of his life, he's still sad—he tells us so—but he is "not consumed." Aaah. Out of his grief comes one of the great treasures of Scripture: "Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."

The Lamenter offers us a lovely contrast to some other famous "wanderers" of the Bible. When the Lamenter's forefathers and foremothers grumbled and grieved in the desert after God miraculously delivered them from the Egyptians, they didn't give him even a smidgen of glory. The wandering Israelites refused to acknowledge God's goodness and faithfulness in their hardship. Unlike them, the Lamenter gives us words—glorious language—to express our frustrations in a way that still honors and recognizes our great God.


Excerpted from grumble hallelujah by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira Copyright © 2011 by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
swt_angel_79 More than 1 year ago
Grumble, grumble, grumble... do you find that you grumble about your life many days?  Do you often find you blame others for the issues you have?  Do you even find yourself blaming God?  Or how about asking him "why me, Lord?"  Welcome to the principles behind Grumble Hallelujah!  Grumble Hallelujah teaches you how NOT to grumble, place blame or even turn against the things you "think" are causing your problems in your life.  Grumble Hallelujah teaches you how to LOVE YOUR LIFE even as it's letting you down.
sherylfullner More than 1 year ago
I read the introduction, the appendix, all the footnotes and the epilog in addition to the whole book because I wanted to "lick the plate" of very useful info BUT I did not read pages 184 or 16 or 63 because they wanted me to do some work. Specifically they wanted me with the Holy Spirit's help to consider some questions about what I need to let go of. i expect books to dump some wisdom on me. Author Caryn was asking me to "dump" or empty self in some areas I have not really explored. Sort of like taking communion and you know you are supposed to confess stuff, but that is a lot of work and besides the people have already arrived with the wine. when I realized I was being spiritually lazy, I went back and photocopied the question pages so I can work through them systematically after I return the library book. Caryn writes in a believable, current voice peppered with "zillions" and "duh", but her reasonings and insights as well as her choices of quotes and scriptures are not chatty or folksy: they are solid and light- giving. this book is worth the work.
baseballblondie More than 1 year ago
If you've ever been at the point where you're crying out to God, trying to find a way to praise Him in the midst of all the low moments in life, then you'd be please to know that there is hope. Written with a touch of humor, Caryn Dahlstrand Rivandeneria shares her experiences that show that there is a way out of that pit and that even while being in, the praise to God might not be shouted, but rather grumbled. I found I could easily relate to some of the things that the author brings up. I've been at points in my life where my world's completely fallen apart and I don't begin to know how I'm supposed to praise God. But I've also had those mountaintop experiences too. She talks about how her outwardly her life was all put together, but then she admits that she was broken inside. She said that these hurts are meant to be grieved. When I read that, I was like "WOW." And my first thoughts went to the 10 year period I'd spent burying a deep hurt and not allowing myself to fully grieve. But what I also loved about this book was that she tells of how several different Bible characters had to reach that point where they begged for God to intervene so that they could fully enjoy their relationship with Him. Another thing that I loved about this book was that each chapter had both discussion questions and a prayer to make your own. Unlike most nonfiction books that had discussion questions that I'd ignore, I actually took the time to answer some, if not all of these. I'm not a nonfiction reader. I typically don't like things that will make me face my faults. But I found I really enjoyed this book. I gained an understanding of how to really praise God through even the points in my life that aren't going the way that I'd like. I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
mommydearestGF More than 1 year ago
Are there days that seem to be hard just to crawl out of bed or begin less than perfect? Are those the days we praise the Lord and tell him how thankful we are? Or are those the days we just try to get by and forget that the Lord is in control? Grumble Hallelujah-Learning to love your life even when it lets you down by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira helps the reader focus on the big picture and thank the Lord even when things aren't going as planned. Each chapter concludes with easy practical life applications and reflection questions. I felt this book was easy to read one chapter at a time rather than all at once. By reading the book this way it allows you to make small changes daily that affect your life. This book covers many helpful topics that most Christians struggle with such as fear, ungratefulness, jealousy, and envy. I felt extremely encouraged after reading the chapter on fear. Rivadeneira incorporates helpful scripture to counter fear such as Deuteronomy 20:3-4 and Isaiah 12:2. Overall this book was an encouraging read. I would recommend this book to someone that wants to grow spiritually or is struggling with life's hardships. I was given this book by Tyndale House Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So glad I stumbled upon Caryn's books, thisbook really helped me realize things that i meed to change and fix in my life right now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got Grumble Hallelujah from Tyndale Blog Program. The only reason I got it was because it was the only available book that sparked my interest. I was really happy with the book and really loved it. It taught me so many life lessons and I'm so glad I had the chance reading it. It taught me that when you feel down or when you think that you are the only one that has a hard stressful life it's not true. Most of us experience stress and hardships in life that we can only turn to God for help. I am so glad that I had the chance reading this book and it is really great and it will be on my bookshelf for a LONG TIME! I congratulate Caryn Dahlstrand for writing this book and guess what Caryn? You actually wrote it and now it's on amazon! When I was reading that part in the book where you said that you're hoping to find this on amazon one day, I was literary erupting with joy for you that you actually did it!!! Congrats Caryn and thanks for writing such a wonderful book that many of us will enjoy so much!
harmonyturtle More than 1 year ago
The concept of Grumble Hallelujah is relatable to everyone. We all have moments where we seem to hate our life, but I will say that some of us seem to have more of those moments than others especially me. When I saw there was a whole book dedicated to a topic that I often had to battle in my own life I was quick to want to review it. Rivadeneira shares her personal stories to tell how she has discovered how to love her life even though it hasn't always been as she had hoped. Whether this is because of her parents' divorce, or because finances have caused problems. She gives tips on how to squeeze out of the hands of hating your life, and learning to find a way to love it. The advice she gives based from personal experience, and a Biblical perspective is very useful. I had come to conclude a bit of these things prior to reading the book about my own life though. I think the most standout thing to me is that she advises we should rejoice in other people's happiness instead of rolling in jealousy. I have to admit I've been guilty of this. Though she never uses it as an example, since she is married, I will admit I've often found myself jealous of married, or engaged friends. It seems like they stumbled upon something that has been so difficult for me to find, but I needed to begin finding the ability to feel happiness through theirs instead of wishing I had something I don't right now. This has become true with many things, but it seems I have control of whether I write a book or not, or finally learn the guitar, but that one thing seems to be completely out of my hands. So where does the author advise we direct those things we can't control? That is to give it to God, which I'm learning to do. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has suffered a major setback whether it be finding out you can't have children, or you haven't got accepted to the college you wanted. Maybe it's something as minor as not having the two-story house you always dreamed of that's got you down. This book will encourage you to find those things you have to be thankful of though that give you a reason to love your life. This complimentary copy was provided by Tyndale in exchange for a review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago