It is often rightly advised that whoever seeks to comfort those who have suffered greatly should speak less and listen more. What may not be as readily appreciated is that this is also sound advice for the one who is grieving, though not right away. It is true that people need some time to tell their story and to cry out to God. In the first few weeks after loss some people imagine that they are doing very well, and can give great testimony to God in those opening days of grief, but they have probably not even begun to feel the heavy burden of what has happened to them. After the spiritual anesthesia wears off they may be shocked by the physical heartache and the overwhelming emotional distress and confusion that attack them. Of course they may say all kinds of things at that time, and that is much better than trying to continue to pretend that they are doing well. But eventually the time may come when even they are tired of their own story. They may then come to see that not all of their words to God and to others were true, right, and good.
God can certainly take any abuse we may give Him. He can suffer our statements that go over the edge, but we need to come to our own conclusion that error and excess do not do us any good. They cannot restore what we have lost. They do not help us to embrace the new life that is ahead of us. They will not heal the wounds of our souls. Job has said some things that might have gone too far. The Lord is using His servant Elihu to redirect Job away from his loss and toward the greatness of God. Does Job really believe that he is no better off than if he had sinned? I doubt it. But I do not doubt that the thought that his righteous life was useless may have occurred to him.
Of course it is never wise to pursue sin. But Elihu answers these errors of the heart, not by pointing to their obvious folly directly, but by telling Job and the rest of us who would read these words to look at the heavens and to consider the glory of God. We cannot win a fight against the One who loves His beloved people. We will never stain the righteousness of God. This is good to consider. Are we angry with the events that have transpired in our lives? Are we perplexed by the actions of the Almighty? Yes, but do we understand that we will never take anything away from the One who created the heavens and the earth? His greatness is beyond our reach. His love is beyond our foolish thoughts. We only hurt ourselves by dwelling on things that are not true. Praise God, we cannot hurt Him. It is probably time to say less.
Have we ever considered the idea that if God has turned His face away from our cries for a season, that may have been more for our own good than because of God’s anger against us? Could it be that God does not want to pay attention to our foolishness, like a father who will not listen to the angry, silly insults that his young son hurls at him?
Now it is time for holy redirection toward God, His attributes, His ways, and His many gifts. It is a great mystery how the Holy Spirit will finally enable a person to willingly hear counsel that otherwise might have been rejected earlier as insensitive and offensive. Now the heart that was so bruised remembers that God does give songs in the night, and a hurting soul is helped.
The time has come for Job to say less. He will not even open his mouth until the prophetic figure Elihu somehow gives way to the immediate presence of God. Even then Job will only speak when God insists that he respond. When he does finally talk, his heart will be humble.
Jesus taught for three years. He said of His ministry, “I was sent for this purpose.” Not only did He teach publicly and send out His disciples to do the same, He especially revealed the secrets of the kingdom in His private teaching of His disciples. He had much to say, and all of it was without sin. If we were able to examine His innermost thoughts during His times of deepest trouble and distress, we could still never accuse Him of any sin. Yet even for our Lord, the time for talking eventually came to an end. There was no need to respond to the charges of enemies who hated Him. He spoke the loudest simply through His willing death for us. We must eventually stop speaking about our sorrows and start looking to the Man of Sorrows as the Source of all the healing we could ever ask for.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty God, we look up to the heavens. Though we would rail against You in our discontent, we cannot actually force You to give us an answer for what we deem to be unfair behavior on Your part. We have been so wrong in our thoughts and in our unrighteous anger. You are the Provider of every blessing. You give us songs in the night. Have mercy on us now. Forgive us, for we have multiplied words without knowledge.