Every new Intervarsity staff person in our region is required to go through a one year training module. Part of that training is reading and blogging our way through the Bible in a year. It’s been fun. So I’m writing (blogs, quarterly reports, bible studies), but have not had alot of time to post here. I did want to share this piece I wrote as I read through Job.
I worked as a chaplain at Duke Hospital two years ago. I staffed the OB/Gyn floor, as well as the Transplant Unit and terminal illnesses. I was pretty upset that I had two floors where death never stopped—patients and families were suffering loss of lungs, loss of hearts, loss of children, and loss of self. Most of my colleagues got to staff the cool out-patient units, the children’s wards, and Labor and Delivery.
During this time, I wanted to be present at the joys of birth or seeing children get better, saying goodbye to families who had come in for simple procedures. Instead, I was assigned to two units mostly comprised of grief, death, and sadness. For six months, I found myself constantly at a loss for words and trying to find words with weight.
The infamous “well, the Lord gives and the Lord takes” made me sick. I do not believe the Lord gets a thrill out of death. Loss and death suck. Thus when I read the Job narrative, I found it chilling and eerie. A pious man with great devotion to God is slowly stripped of everything that is his. His possessions, his family, and even his body become fair game for the Adversary to attack. The tumult that Job faces does not make sense in proportion to Job’s saintliness and him being known as ‘blameless and upright.’
Job does not curse his Creator in his misfortune. Even his wife, Mrs. Job, tries to get him to speak up and curse God [an aside for kicks, I love that St. Chrysostom, 4th Century church father, said “Job’s greatest trial was that his wife was not taken,” rather she just kept egging him on]. Instead Job enters into 7 days and nights of mourning with his friends—in silence. They sit, they wait, they grieve (aah, the lost art of grieving). They sit until Job speaks up. When he finally finds the words, he demands the Lord show up and speak up.
There is wisdom here for us. In the hardest parts of our lives, I think we’re tempted to speak too quickly or busy ourselves or just plain old avoid God. However, like Job, I think our call is to sit, grieve, and engage the Lord in our brokenness. Words are insufficient to explain God, and creating the space to connect with God allows us to be transformed in God’s presence.
Job engages with God in a way that his friends are not able to. Job’s friends try to speak of God and make up responses for God, but Job agues with God, demands of God, and in the process matures in a view of God that is hard but hopeful. His pain moves him towards God
So three things I take away from reading Job:
- Job’s anguish lasts over multiple chapters. Grief is good and most times is not momentary—and that’s okay.
- Honest grief and mourning should move us towards God.
- And if we are willing to engage the silence and do the hard work of engaging with God and not just talking about Him, God will respond—maybe not in our timing but He will respond.
What I was learning as a chaplain and now as an Intervarsity staff is the importance of silence, sitting, and engaging with God. The best chaplains… pastors… people… create space for parishioners students, and friends to interact with God in a way that leads them to the Lord. Transformation only happens when we engage and wrestle with God.