You said what?!!!
“And so I’m not keeping one bit of this quiet, I’m laying it all out on the table; my complaining to high heaven is bitter, but honest.” – Job 7:11 MSG
Can he say that? Is it OK for someone to talk like that? I mean, it sounds so unfaithful. This guy sounds so pessimistic. Where’s his faith? Just listen to his words: “I hate this life! Who needs any more of this? Let me alone! There’s nothing to my life – it’s nothing but smoke” (Job 7:16 MSG). A believer isn’t supposed to think like this, is he? Let alone talk like this. Just listen to the way he talks to God: “Let up on me, will you? Can’t you even let me spit in peace?” (Job 7:19 MSG). How can he get away with that? Shouldn’t we say something? Shouldn’t I quote a verse to him? Doesn’t he need a good dose of Romans 8:28? “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Or how about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18? That’s a good one. “Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” This guy just needs someone to straighten him out!
Whoa! Wait a minute. Before we blow into another person’s despair with our gems of wisdom and some ill-placed Scriptures, let’s try to understand where they’re coming from. Let’s enter into their situation and feel their pain. Let’s share their grief. Let’s get into their shoes and try to experience what they are going through. Too often, we try to alleviate someone else’s misery because we want it to go away for our sake, not theirs. We want the other person’s pain to go away, because it causes us to doubt. It tests our faith. Listen to what Job said about his friends: “They arrive so confident – but what a disappointment! They get there, and their faces fall! And you, my so-called friends, are no better – there’s nothing to you! One look at a hard scene and you shrink in fear” (Job 6:20-21 MSG). You see, pain is – well, painful. It is hard to watch. It is difficult to walk into someone else’s heartache and simply be there for them. We want to fix it. We want to pray them out of their situation. We want to counsel them back into wholeness. And while there is nothing wrong with prayer or biblically based counsel, God may just want us to go through this moment with them to provide love and concern. He may not want us to fix them. He may just want us to care about them.
There is something uncomfortable about Job’s words in these two chapters. He is being brutally honest and it attacks our Christian sensibilities. He is saying things that “good” Christians should not say. He is being TOO honest. And it makes us squirm. But in the midst of his pain, Job has lost all his pious inhibitions. He is beyond worrying about what others think about him. He is fighting for his life. Loss has a way of peeling away the layers of pretense and getting us down to reality of life. It causes us to question. And those questions make others uncomfortable. Why? Because we don’t have the answers. Oh, we have the standard Sunday School answers. We know a handful of verses we can throw out there. But most of us don’t know from experience. We haven’t been there. Job’s friends had never been through what he was experiencing. They couldn’t relate and it made them uncomfortable. But if any one of them had suffered loss like he had, they would probably have said less and hugged more. They would have allowed him to vent, understanding that this is part of the healing process.
Is there a time to speak up? You bet. But sometimes it is enough just to show up. To give those who are going through tragedy a chance to express their grief, their anger, and to ask their questions. God can handle it. Why can’t we? I think it is because, in the back of our minds, we don’t like to see suffering or hear difficult questions. Because it causes us to doubt. It tests our own belief system. But that’s OK. Part of the plan for the body of Christ is for us to go through difficulty together. I can learn from the heartache and hurt of others. I can grow from their difficulty – alongside them. Job’s friends could have learned a lot – if they would have only listened.
Father, give me a compassion for those in pain. Help me to know how to share in the grief of others (Romans 12:15) without having to feel like I have to fix them. Let me understand that I don’t have to be in a hurry to heal everyone. I just need to come alongside them and provide a listening ear and a loving response. You don’t always fix my problems right away. You don’t always quote Scriptures to me. And You are never in a rush to get me out of the situation I am in. But You ALWAYS patiently listen, love, and encourage me. May I learn to do the same. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men