Jobian Laments

Sometimes life gets to be “too much.” 

Given some personal and painful meditations yesterday, some talks with several different people about their hurtful situations…it is too much.

Intellectually, I know my losses are fewer than some and greater than others. I know it is all relative.  But my emotional gut–as I get in tune with it more fully–rails against the felt hurt and doubts the love of God.

How do I escape the feeling that God is picking on me?

My wife’s death was 1 in 10,000 (so the doctors said); my son’s terminal genetic condition was 1 in 100,000.  That means, statistically, my life circumstances are 1 in 100,000,000.  If add to that divorce, by-pass surgery, diabetes, hearing loss, etc., etc., etc. And I know it is not fair to do the “statistical thing”–I may not even have done it correctly…I don’t know…there are too many variables…life can’t be assessed like that…I know…but….

How do I escape the feeling that God is picking on me?

I often read Job’s laments with some sort of empathy. I read some of them again this morning. I feel them in my bones. The hurt and pain are somatic; they are part of my body. It is that gut-wrenching movement of the soul that sends a sharp pain to the chest or the stomach. The kind of pain that makes you double over but is driven by emotion rather than physiology. Our minds and bodies align, and emotional pain delivers blows to the body.

Chapter 3 contains Job’s opening lament–a “I wish I had never been born” lament. The final words of that chapter have sometimes resonated with me and I feel them today.

Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whose God has hedged him in?  For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water.  What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.

“What I feared has come upon me”…..several times in my life–death of a wife, death of a son, divorce. Peace is difficult to experience when what you have “dreaded has happened” to you. When will the next shoe drop? And then more comes down the pike…more pain, more hurt. And then again “when will the next shoe drop?” The anticipation of “what else” begins to consume you and at times you feel like giving up. You are tempted to “curse God and die.”

“I would not live forever. Let me alone,” Job tells God (7:16).  He prefers death to what he is experiencing (7:15) and he is convinced that he will never see happiness again (7:7).

It is little wonder that Job is tired of God’s attention. Why make such a fuss over human beings, especially Job himself?  Job turned the doxological question of Psalm 8 on its head (7:17-18).

What are human beings that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention, that you examine them every morning and test them every moment?

And then he personalized it (Job 7:20b).

Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?

Job gets to the point with God. What is the divine project? What is God’s interest in human beings? Why is there so much suffering? Why should God give a rip about us? Why does he toy with us?

I know these are harsh questions, but they are real ones. They are Job’s questions, and they have been the questions of some of the greatest literature humans have produced.

Job has little doubt–and I think he is quite right!–that God’s hand is written all over his life.  He confesses the sovereignty of God over his creation. Even in the midst of his laments–and partly as a lament–he testifies to what the birds and animals know (Job 12:7-10).

Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of every human being.

The accuser could only do what the hand of God permitted and empowered (Job 1:11-12; 2:5-6). God chose Job. He was “picking” on him and Job felt it. I know the feeling as well–it may not correspond with what really is, but it is my real feeling at times and I feel it today, this morning.

And yet–and there is always, it seems, a “nevertheless” or “yet”–even Job, in the midst of all his pain and hurt can recognize that to God “belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding…to him belong strength and victory” (Job 12:13, 16a). God “performs wonders that cannot be fathomed” (Job 9:10a) and his “wisdom is profound” (Job 9:4a).  “Who can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14). “He does whatever he pleases” (Job 23:13b).

Job, as I, recognizes the greatness, the mystery, the transcendence of God. But we are nagged by the incessant feeling that meaning has escaped us.  “Why then did you bring [us] out of the womb?” (Job 10:18b). What is the meaning of the darkness?

As our hearts hurt and faint, even as the terrors of the moment overwhelm us, we choose God. We do not curse him. We will treasure his words more than daily bread and walk in his footsteps (Job 23:11-12).

But, at the same time, we are “not silenced by the darkness” (Job 23:17). We will speak; we will lament. We “will not keep silent; [we] will speak out in the anguish of [our spirits]; we will complain in the bitterness of [our souls]” (Job 7:11).

I believe; help my unbelief.

 



21 Responses to “Jobian Laments”

  1.   rich constant Says:

    jm
    I would like to respond to some of these things would you rather have me do it on e-mail or on a post.
    A lot of people might think that it might not be the kind.but i do love you as a brother aand respect you emincely
    .
    extreamly concerned rich

  2.   rich constant Says:

    Abraham Maslow said;
    the psychotic says two and two equals five every time
    the neurotic says two and two equals four but I can’t stand it.
    The unhealthy person says two and two equals four so what.
    A healthy person says two and two equals four how interesting.

    Yes everything is subjective John Mark.
    And we make our world ourselves and at times in our lives as our passions live and breath we project into the future where we want to be.
    They become concrete reasonable psychological predispositions and they’re pretty tough to crack.
    To me it has everything to do with what you care to focus on.
    The only thing that has gotten me through the years that I’ve gotten through and all the crud that I am gone through is the abstract thought that God gives us a room to live in. it’s right between our two ears and we get to furnish it anyway we want. Somewhere along the line I would think and of course I could be wrong you have picked up on either subliminally or unconsciously extreme ability brings about suffering, and so because of loss and busted reasonable psychological projections. There becomes inate in the psychology of that person a predisposition to nothing good will come of it. for me
    I’ve had to work my way out of some pre-deep-seated psychological issues.
    I was in such pain and despair over my divorce and 76 I had a psychotic break and my brother who was watching me told my mom in so many words the lights are on but no one’s home and we might have to put him an institution.

    Blessings rich in California

  3.   Quiara Says:

    I pray for peace for you in the midst of this storm. Sometimes it does feel like God is “picking on you” and it’s all we can do to confess the dichotomy of belief and unbelief in the same breath. Thank you for being real. You will probably have had your share of “miserable comforters” in this, so instead of advice or lectures or catch-all clichés, I’ll simply be praying for you and “sitting in silence.”

  4.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    “Why me?” is a very appropriate question. When will God answer this question?

    BTW, I did not know you have been through a by-pass surgery or suffer with diabetes. Diabetes runs in my family. It killed my grandfather and had my dad not been striken with cancer, the diabetes would have killed him too. So far, I have not been diagnosed with this terrible disease. I wish more people were aware of how serious diabetes is, as it stands only behind cancer and heart disease in the amount of fatalities it produces. I pray that you are able to control your diet, as I know that is a tough battle (especially in a culture that is saturated with unhealthy foods).

    Thank you for this wonderful and personal post.

    Rex

  5.   Carisse Says:

    I love you. Day is coming. Hold on.

  6.   rich constant Says:

    One of the reasons I say, hot dog, ooh boy, too much fun, a leap a whirl a vertical climb and once again you know it’s time for a rocky and his friends.
    neat.
    Phrases in these like these always put me in touch with my adolescence my nine and 10 year old hide and seek day’s tag,your it. The adventure of my youth, the wonderment of the elements of my surroundings. A happy and carefree life, nothing to do and nowhere to go but play.
    Rats,
    I know when I feel bad all the advice in the world won’t do a bit of good but I do know I’ll get over it,
    and compared to 1976 and a few other years that I can remember I’ve got a lot of compared to whats and sometimes that helps me get through and makes a bad day just another day. just not a good day.

    Hang in there John Mark please,
    I can imagine how tired you must be. I find myself saying is all I want to do is rest and find a little peace..
    your comments are giving me so much rest in peace it seems to be the primary comfort in my life a lot of the time.
    Be well my brother and I hope you find comfort today and some of the things that have been said.
    And of course you know that I will petition the Lord for you as are so many others.
    blessings rich in California.

  7. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks for the comments, friends.

    I heard someone last night critique the question “Why me?” They claimed it was a way to avoid responsibility.

    When the question is addressed to self, then it can spiral into a paralyzing self-pity. But when it is addressed to God, it places the responsbility squarely on the one to whom it belongs–God himself.

  8.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I would be curious to know whether this person has ever experieced any significant and/or unexpected suffering. I had someone once tell me that the question of ‘why me?’ was sinful because it called into question the goodness of God’s care for us. Interestingly, the only traumatic event this person ever claimed to endure was a car accident that resulted in a fractured leg which required surgery.

    I am not one who like to measure grief and pain, since what may not be a burden of suffering to me will be so for another. However, besides my own story of suffering, I personally know other who have buried children, been through divorce, benn the victim of rape, spent an entire childhood battling cancer, etc… Everyone has asked the same question “Why me?” to God. We are all still waiting for the answer.

    Rex

  9.   rich constant Says:

    Again you are absolutely right John Mark, although there is another perspective I alluded to this in another post. God loved and cherished his creation, all out of love and goodness perfect in every way. God expressed anger in many ways, Jesus wept, Jesus was in the garden crying tears as a blood, all for the love of the creation. We take on the divine nature in many ways we find that pain and suffering that the Trinity has experienced. If you don’t mind a put in a Scripture that’s meaningful to me.

    Rom 15:3 For Christ also pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me.
    Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.
    Rom 15:5 Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus:
    Rom 15:6 that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    The suffering of the profits for the word of God did not God feel for them did not God grieve .without God’s patience and mercy the onslaught of evil men practicing evil mean and nasty things .
    John Mark the wrath of God lingers and hovers over creation as a pill when to those who do evil.
    Each one of us it seems gets to know God in a manner that tests are faith Romans five first few verses you my brother seemed to be to me experiencing a part of the grief that God feels for the loss of his good through the acts of evil. I know that through the prayers of the saints and through your diligence in the Scriptures you will find your way through this valley of darkness and yes you might get angry that get angry plenty of times and wanted to destroy his people.
    I know this has become a conundrum for you.

    But Jesus gives us a promise to seek and you shall find.

    This one always worked well for me you’ll probably not white kid

  10.   rich constant Says:

    Conundrum, a puzzle or a riddle designed to test for lateral thinking

  11.   Sheila Says:

    John Mark, I was just thinking about you today, or yesterday. About the time you came to our house, and we walked, and I was in a place similar to where you are right now. And I wanted so much to believe that God knew what was going on, had some say in it, and cared. And I had had those incredible “visitations” by hawks and an owl at just the right times, but I was afraid to believe it was what I thought it was….And I remember you saying, “Why wouldn’t God send birds to comfort you, to communicate with you? Why not believe He would do that?”

    I don’t remember anything else specific that we talked about, but I do remember that it was very helpful. And that there was almost no one I could talk to or listen to at that point with any hope that they could understand what I was going through spiritually….but you, I could listen to. Precisely because you had suffered as much as you had.

    I don’t know why some of us are “picked on” more than others. My hope is that it is to allow us to see more deeply into God’s heart, because He has suffered more than anyone….and He wants some people to be able to hear Him, too.

    I know I couldn’t do the work I do (counseling people who’ve had very, very hard lives) if I hadn’t lived through an awful lot myself.

    That doesn’t answer it all, but it does give me something very precious.

    I’m not trying to answer it. I just want to say thank you and let you know you are in my prayers tonight.

  12. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Sheila, it is wonderful to hear from you. I, too, remember our walk though I don’t remember much of what was said except the generalities of the situation. It was good for me to walk with you, and it is nice to remember and reflect on our journey that evening. Thank you for your love and prayers.

    John Mark

  13.   Adam G. Says:

    Honestly? I’ve asked God “why him?” about you a couple of times. I still don’t know. Where theological comprehension is concerned, I envy you. You are light years ahead of anywhere I can hope to reach. Personally, though, I wouldn’t have the strength to walk the road you’ve walked. Then again, maybe you don’t either. Surely in some way you have been sustained by God in all these things, however distant He may seem. One thing you can’t see from your perspective is how much your life and witness encourage me. To you that probably seems foolish, like you’re thinking “if only he really knew,” but it is very real to me.

    You have my prayers.

  14.   benwiles Says:

    I am reminded of Elijah’s conversation with God under the juniper tree in 1 Kings 19. Elijah comes to God with a full-throated lament. God responds by sending an angel with food, water, and a message:

    “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”

    I can relate, somewhat, to the overwhelmed feeling you describe. In a 28-month span I was fired twice, had two children born early and with significant sight impairment, and underwent by-pass surgery. I still don’t know why it all happened as it did. I suspect I never will.

    What’s an even greater mystery is how I got through it at all. Even today, I often feel like my faith is barely halfway to mustard seed status.

    All I can say for sure is that the journey was too much for me. The laments were loud and often angry (and occasionally misdirected — sorry).

    But where God was stingy with answers, He and His people were generous with sustenance.

    Even if God does not give you what you ask for, may He give you what you need.

  15. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Friends, thank you for your words, prayers and kindnesses.

    I value God’s presence through his people, and I experience his care in my laments. He is listening and thank you for listening as well as I let go of my laments through meditation, prayer and–yes, even–blogging. 🙂

  16.   Sheila Says:

    John Mark, after reading your blog last night, by “chance” (?) I found the following video on YouTube, of all places. I was in shock and am sad for what has happened, though I know the people are all okay and will get through this.

    Ironically, I am going there in August for a retreat with John Michael on “The Fire of God.”

    I also thought of you and thought you might appreciate seeing this. A visual image of dreams going up in smoke.

    This chapel was the place where the dark night of my soul finally saw Light. I will miss it greatly.

  17. Profile photo of johndobbs  J D Says:

    Thank you John Mark…you are expressing some things on my heart as well. Most common phrases from my mouth these days are “oh my God” … “this isn’t right” … “why couldn’t….”

    As I told a friend yesterday, I am a believer. I am not a former believer just because something went terribly wrong in my life … a wrong I cannot describe or ascribe.

    As my wife and I wade in our tears and anguish, I believe God walks with us. But I remain without many answers … only hope … and that is not a small thing.

    I love you.

  18. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, John. We share a pain that is too deep to express. Words are never enough.

    But words do not adequately express love either, and we share that for our sons….and, I’m grateful, for each other.

  19.   T Gagnon Says:

    I can relate to what Job went through and I think I can safely say I can relate to being, what seems, constantly bombarded by bad things happening to a person. It is a true test of faith.

    In my case my best friend, I thought, had an affair with my husband that set the stage for the demise of my marriage and my life as I knew it. I found this out in 2000 soon after I brought our second daughter home from China.

    When I told her how I felt about what she had done-the deception, betrayal, utter gut-wrenching pain she had caused she went on to blame me for what had happened. She just wanted to say she was sorry, I was supposed to immediately forgive her so she could go on with her life and not have to deal with me and the consequences of her behavior anymore. When I called her months later to see if she would finally, genuinely show remorse she didn’t see the need to talk to me anymore. She told me she would only speak to me with a third party (counselor) present. Suddenly she cast me as Offender to her new role as Victim. I would have had to fly clear across the country so she could feel “protected” from ME! Well that did not happen. She moved on with her life deceiving everyone else into thinking that she was a saint and divorced her then husband. She then quickly thereafter remarried. This was the woman that my ex-husband and I asked to take care of our children if anything happened to the both of us and we died.

    I know it’s my responsibility to forgive her for what she did. And forgiveness is a process, not an event. Just when I think I’ve made it far down the road to forgiveness something reminds me and I struggle once again with the pain of forgiving her. I suppose that’s the lesson.

    Unlike Job, my life has not been restored to me. I continue my walk with God for the sake of my two beautiful daughters (and my son in heaven-Matthew James) and look for the lessons in my struggle to forgive that life has presented to me.

  20. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I am sorry to hear of your struggles but encouraged to hear that you still seek God’s face. Job walked through his pain for many months–we don’t know exactly how long–before he experienced renewal through his encounter with God. Faithful endurance is what Job teaches us. We are not promised the return of what we have lost, but the story of Job does teach us that God will come to us and renew our hearts with his presence. May God hear your lament and answer your pleadings.

  21.   Jobian Says:

    I am not religious nor am I atheist. Having served in the Marine Corps at war I found as a Sgt that no aeithist could be found in a foxhole.
    I have read JOB and have at times felt as if I was JOB and living a Jobian life. So as a human being and one who has suffered I hear your laments and have empathy.

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