Job 7:11 (ESV) — “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
My experience of Christianity in America has been one where suffering and lament are rarely discussed. The thing that is even more rare is the practice of lament. Christians get uncomfortable when people pour their heart’s anguish out in public or in conversation. Most people don’t know what to make of hurting people. We prefer nice, neat, and tidy over messy, emotional, and sadness.
Why is this? We’re not used to seeing others bear their soul’s pain and hurt, and so we rarely do it either. Very few churches are places that acknowledge or practice lament.
Our text today shows us Job’s lament. He says, “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” He is not going to restrain his mouth and keep his pain inside. He is going to speak from the brokenness, emptiness, and restlessness of his soul. He’s going to issue the bitter complaint his soul has about his circumstances. This passage, and the posture it describes is foreign territory for most of us. We don’t personally talk about or do what he is describing, and we certainly aren’t used to anybody else who does that.
The practice of lament is a very real facet of the Christian life. It is right to grieve when we lose loved ones. It is right to mourn death. We should be sorrowful about bad news like a cancer diagnosis or a fatal car accident. These things are a result of a fallen and broken world. We long for the day when these things will pass away and Jesus makes all things new. But until that day, we live in these very real tragedies. Lament is the rightful expression of the soul that grieves loss and pain. It is the right emotional response to real life suffering. Trials and tribulations are not to be endured with fake smiles and a veneer of Christian language that minimizes our troubles. We are to speak honestly about it, because God can handle our complaint.
Reflection & Journal:
- What are some examples in the life of Job that brought about his pain?
- What are examples in your life where lament was the proper response? Did you do it?
- Why do you believe the church struggles so badly with lament and suffering?
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