As God winds down this part of the lecture to Job, God asks for an answer. But this man who is in the depths of grief, and has just about swallowed his own foot, remains silent:
Job 40:4, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (NIV).
I’m thinking about lament, as I prepare to write a commentary for another site, later this week, so there is likely to be a little bit of cross-over (fair warning).
Lament is comprised of multiple parts, and the thing that is so astounding about it is the tension between complaint and petition. Lament is not ‘drama,’ and I think we need to consider how very important that is. Lament is the vomiting of legitimate pain, remembering that it hasn’t always been this way and hoping that it won’t continue to be, asking God to be near and to bring some good about, and believing that God actually will.
That’s a preview of some of my upcoming thoughts about Jeremiah, but truthfully… Job’s not there yet. So, in wisdom, he shuts his mouth.
There are times when I could have taken a page from that book!
I’m not suggesting that we shut down and become less transparent people, but there is an appropriate time for quiet reflection, and there’s certainly a time for listening. In fact, we should probably spend more time listening than speaking! I think this allows us to process the things that are happening in, through, around, and to us; and I think it makes for better solutions when we are ready to admit that life isn’t comprised of only the terrible thing that is happening right now.
It’s the pause between the complaint and the remembering, between the complaint and the hoping. Let’s not get stuck in the complaint, but let’s also give ourselves (and others) enough grace to breathe, in the face of tragedy. It’s not a process that can be rushed.