Christianity 201

February 8, 2014

A Place for Lament

Mike Bell posted this on Internet Monk earlier this week. For it to make sense we had to use the picture as well, so, in light of the double crime (!) why not read this  at source: What about Job’s Kids? (Be sure to also read the comments.)

I had an interesting picture in my facebook feed the other day.  I don’t usually repost much, but this one really caught my attention as it represented how I was feeling that day.

On particularly rough days, when I’m sure that I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.

Nice thought, right?

It reminded me of what I had read just the previous day from James 5:11:

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

So what happened to Job?  The Sunday School version has God taking everything away, but blessing Job with even more than he had at the beginning.  This version tends to gloss over the 40 chapters of suffering that occurs between the taking away and the restoring.

Ever since I reposted the facebook meme I have had second thoughts.

Why is it so bad to say “life sucks”, full stop.   Job “loathes” his life and wishes he had never been born.  He continues this theme for most of 40 chapters.  In other scripture, David cries “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”  Why are we so afraid of lament?  Why do feel the need to put on masks when we go to church?

And what about Job’s kids?  The book of Job portrays them as partiers.  After every birthday party Job presents a sacrifice, just in case his children got carried away.  We get the sense that the book portrays them as less than ideal so that it can be shown that what he ended up with was better than what he started with.  Even so, his kids couldn’t say that their “track record for getting through bad days was 100%.”

That is the second problem that I have with the facebook post.  Some people don’t make it.  People die, commit suicide, are incapacitated by injury and disease, or are completely overwhelmed by circumstances.  Maybe I am overthinking this, but a post that says it’s “pretty good” that I made it through the day could come across as pretty insensitive to those who are going through significant struggle or loss.

I have a friend who lost his job, was then divorced by his wife, and his kids no longer want to talk to him.  Should I go and give him a friendly slap on the back and say, “Isn’t it good that you are making through the day?”  Or what about the cashier from the variety store behind my house who was shot in a robbery and left as a quadriplegic?  How would my post make him feel? Or those who a physically or sexuality abused on a daily basis?

Sometimes life is tougher than we can manage.  When I see others in that place I need to learn to sit and listen, and not be so quick with the clichés.  I also have to be willing to take off my own mask and admit to others when I am having a miserable day, or week, or month, or year.  For some “life is tough, and then you die.”  I find it really hard to call that “good.”

What do you think?  Am I overreacting here?  Or is there a need for us to be more considerate of those who are having difficult times?  Do we need to recognize and practice lament in our own lives?