The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners… Isaiah 61:1
In the 3rd chapter of Job, he curses the day he was born. He curses the countless celebrations and miraculous joys of conception and birth of a new born child. Not any child. Him. His life, anyone or anything that took pleasure from this event. And anyone who helped make it happen. God, his parents, the community, everyone. He curses the day, the people, and the miracle.
When I counsel people in the midst of depression I have them read this scripture out loud during a session. Now, when someone is going through a tough time, especially to the point of feeling they are better off dead than alive, it is not unusual to turn to the book of Job.
The story is misunderstood, the book is avoided in so many ways like the plague. Next to the book of Revelation we avoid Job. It’s messy, and even more complicated than you can imagine when you study it from as a scholar, which I have not. But when I talk to my friends who are specialists the nuances are unbelievable.
I am not a Bible Scholar. I am a practical theologian and pastor. So I will not speak to the historical context and meanings of the book, what I want to speak to is how we have turned this extremely complex book into a guide on how to be humble in the midst of suffering, and how to “chose happiness” and how to hold on to hope that “all will be restored in the end.”
No, No, No, No, No, No, NO!
So why would I point a deeply depressed person to the scripture that talks about feeling hopeless? Because the world wants us to get over it, to give us- “it all happens for a reason” “it’s your choice to feel this way” and “time heals all wounds.” And the response I get is this, “This is exactly how I feel, how did I not know that this was in the Bible.”
I had a dream last night that I was sitting in the courtroom as a young African American man was put on trial. He was innocent, yet was convicted. In the dream I had the sense that he was one of the hundreds of young African American men killed by police. Yet he wasn’t dead, he was on trial, and was convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. The hopelessness overtook him. Later I went to see him get transported and he started to run.
I stopped him, I promised to come visit him in jail. I told him we would study Jeremiah together. I told him to read Job 3 before I could get to him, that he was not in this alone. He asked me if I was a teacher, “no,” I said, “I’m a pastor.” He collapsed into tears and I held him.
I assured him I would see him as soon as possible and put him on the transport. Then, I couldn’t find my shoes, because, dream…
We like to tell the story that Job was a good man, horrible things happened to him. His friends came along and in their attempt to be supportive told him to “buck up” then God teaches him who is really in control. Job, “in his faithfulness”, stays true to God and in the midst of terrible, terrible pain, he endures, and in the end he remarries and proceeds to have the same number of male and female children, he becomes rich again, and all live happily ever after.
You cannot replace the death of a life, the death of a marriage, the death of children, the loss of everything you held dear, including the ideal of prosperity gospel. That if you remain true to God, God will reward you. All is NOT restored. All is NOT healed.
There are some wounds that cannot be healed, there are some things you cannot will into existence, you cannot force someone to love you, or just “get over” your depression, or protect yourself from betrayal if you are in a relationship. You can, as Job does, sit in it.
You can “remain faithful” as Job was, and how did he do that? By cursing and rejecting the crap, and allowing the Spirit of the Lord to sit with him. To allow God to tell and scream at him too. To recognize that life is hard and sad, and really, really sucks, that God is in control, sure, and that too sucks for Job. By holding God accountable, by holding his friends accountable.
Nothing was restored for Job, but he was able to move on. The pain of life could not outweigh the goodness that he knew was out there. However, it is not that he moved on that is the point, it is how he was able to. He grieved, really, really grieved his losses. And that, that is the true message, the true grace, and the part that (just might) hurt the most.