Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Job’s Bitter Complaint and How It Helps Us In Ours

“God has made my heart faint;

the Almighty has terrified me;

If only I could vanish in the darkness,

and thick darkness would cover my face!”

~Job 23:16-17 (NRSV).

I fully recognise that this is not a popular theology for everyone, but it’s lifesaving one for the few that are stranded in life, those living a Joban experience. And it’s for these that I feel compelled to bring this message.

It is hardly conscionable that anyone could be quite as righteous as Job was, and at the same time be as afflicted as he was, but there are always examples of people, who for a season, remind us of his story.

Job, therefore, has a rich part in our spiritualism and theology. A Job-less Bible would present an incomplete picture of God as God relates with us and through life.

The General Encouragement That ‘Job’ Is

Job is epitaphic of a long 42-chapter journey, and it is placed that way perhaps for good reason. Many of our most difficult and dark times are lengthy. They always last too long for us. Such is grief.

The story of Job could be described as a journey in reconciling deep grief in the context of theology relating to life response, including God’s role in and through the provision and remission of blessing. This book necessarily explodes portions of our faith. The foundations of our faith are made better for it.

If we can see an upright person in Job—one that’s known to be about as spiritually mature as anyone can get, barring Jesus—and we can see him struggle against the vast losses he suffered in his life, it means it’s okay for us also to struggle as we deal with ours. And losses we all have.

Our Own Bitter Complaints

There is nothing more certain than the fact that we will complain in life—that we’ll be given enough to complain bitterly about, and that we’ll be very much vindicated in our complaint, so long as it’s handled in relatively godly ways.

There have been all sorts of ‘no complaint’ challenges, and I’ve even done them, at one point registering seventy-three days straight without significant complaint.

But what these challenges don’t cater for—if harsh circumstances present—is the ability to complain, wail and lament about our dire straits.

We do need an outlet to pour out our anger, confusion and bargaining behaviour. It’s normal to the grieving process, pre-acceptance.

The key is to issue our complaints to God, or in the sight of God with trusted others, so that we may have some way of resolving our complaints, recognising that resolving complicated issues is a process, and one that is not usually quickly achieved.

We’re not to feel guilty for complaining about what are for us (at the time) irreconcilable issues. Our God is bigger than any complaint and like any good friend will listen to any complaint we’ll bring his way.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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