How would today’s Church receive a man (and mentor) like Job? A man who is remembered for his deep lamenting of the awful grace of God.
Would we shun him or attempt to correct him as his “friends” did?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the modern worship songs we sing.
For example, I love singing Elevation’s Gone.
When I sing those lyrics I want to shout them from the rooftops! But, in all our celebrating and jubilant worship I have to ask, “Have we mislaid the deep comfort, and soul-cleansing, that happens in honest lament?”
Might this be an essential key to reaching the hearts of the prodigal and broken?
JOB: Mentor for tunnels and valleys
Not every part of this journey in life is spent on mountaintops… or rooftops.
And I know, those paths were just as much a part of my “obedience in a long direction,” as were my brighter days filled with joy and laughter.
My own journey has taken me through many a dusty desert night, traversing dark tunnels and deep valleys.
We are instructed, “… count is all joy,” right?
So, let me ask, “Can His joy be found in dark confusion, grief, and loss?”
Questions from the riff-raff among the wreckage
In pondering Job’s laments many questions arose in my heart, like…
Was it embracing a God of Awful Grace, even in my darkness, that got me through my desert nights?
Is that why I came to love Job, Jeremiah, and David with such passion?
Knowing Jesus, “in the fellowship of His suffering,” is an essential part of our discipleship, right?
Am I not called to follow Christ’s example, by wrapping my arms around the ones who are lost and broken, even as I once was?
Don’t my laments usher me into a whole new dimension of worship–even in the midst of suffering?
(I wonder if the Asian, African, Central, and South American Church, already know all about this kind of worship.)
Is it possible that we in the affluent Western church have yet to learn, (or relearn?) this form of intimate worship?
Hard questions on VALUE
Because we know the kind of people Jesus valued, can I ask… “Would those folks be welcome in our churches?”
And while you think about that, let me ask a few more questions…
- “Do we really value people who are broken and suffering like Job was?
- “The same way we value people who, aren’t?”
- Or, “Do we ‘see ourselves’ as somehow superior in faith to the ones who suffer as Job did?”
As I look more closely at Job, sitting half-naked in his ash pile with oozing sores, I wonder,
“What would I do if a person like Job walked into my church, and then, sat themselves next to me on Sunday morning?”
Pondering “answers” for the Awful Grace of God
Michael Card believes the Book of Job is God’s “primer of lament” to mentor you and me in the ways of Jesus to (and for) the broken.
So, let’s examine some of his points as he breaks down lament for us:
- PRESENCE: Like all the lament psalms, Job’s lament will center around one deep, central need–the Presence of God.
- HESED: The root of every biblical lament involves an apparent violation of this defining characteristic of God. The one who laments in the Bible is giving voice, sometimes even accusing God of not acting in accordance to His own revealed character.
- AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIP: … Job displays a brutal honesty that could have only been born out of a desire for a deep and genuine relationship with a God whom he believed could be moved by his tears.
- FROM “I” TO “THOU”: … biblical lament is the exhausting of the self against God and the eventual turning back to Him. This is sometimes called the movement from “I to Thou.” At some unpredictable point in the lament, a turn is made… The self, exhausted of its emotional energy, seems to collapse into the Presence of the One who was there, seen or unseen, all along.
- FAITHFUL PRAYERS OF PROTEST: … the act of lamenting, protesting, and even accusing God through the prayer of protest is still an act of faith. Far from denying the existence of God, the lament of faith cries out on the basis of an appeal to the living God’s loving-kindness, in spite of the fact that the present conditions would suggest otherwise.
Finally, “Does Jesus use laments to awaken my heart to His purposes for His Gospel?”
To answer this question I have to ask myself more hard questions.
- First, do laments expose my own fears?
- Next, are laments an unwanted but necessary part of my Christian growth?
- Most importantly, is lament a vital piece that is missing in reaching a lost and broken planet with the Gospel?
Finally, Card asks us a searching question that might expose the hard and high walls, I’ve built around my own heart…
Have we forgotten that the compassionate face of God was revealed to us in Jesus? Christ revealed to us the Father who stands in the road waiting for a glimpse of prodigal children returning to Him. Jesus revealed the One who gets up from the throne, forever motivated by His defining characteristic, loving-kindness (hesed). In Jesus we experience a God who is moved by our tears, who is even moved to tears. Until we learn to let our tears of lament flow freely in His presence we will never discover this deep dimension of Him. Only the Christ who became so familiar with our suffering can break apart that dispassionate dividing wall between ourselves, others and God. Only the power of His tender tears can tear it down.
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6: 7-8 KJV