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Holy Lament
Holy Lament

Job’s Emotional Courage 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Richard Rohr notes the lessons on grief and lament we can learn from Job: 

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we find Job experiencing some of the common emotions of grief, including denial and anger. The first seven days of Job’s time on the “dung heap” (Job 2:8) of pain are spent in silence, what we might call shock or denial. Then he taps into anger; in verse after verse Job shouts and curses at God. He says, in effect, “This so-called life I have is not really life, God, it’s death. So why should I be happy about being born?”  

Perhaps some of us have been there—so hurt and betrayed, so devastated by our losses that we echo Job’s cry about the day he was born, “May that day be darkness. May God on high have no thought for it, may no light shine on it. May murk and deep shadow claim it for their own” (Job 3:4–5). It’s beautiful, poetic imagery. He’s saying: “Uncreate that day. Make it not a day of light, but darkness. Let clouds hang over it, eclipse swoop down on it.” Where God in Genesis speaks “Let there be light,” Job insists “Let there be darkness.” A day of uncreation, of anti-creation. We probably have to have experienced true depression, betrayal, or injustice to understand such a feeling. 

There’s a part of each of us that feels and speaks that sadness. Not every day, thank goodness. But if we’re willing to feel and participate in the pain of the world, part of us will suffer that kind of despair. If we want to walk with Job, with Jesus, and in solidarity with much of the world, we must allow grace to lead us there as the events of life show themselves. I believe this is exactly what we mean by conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29).  

We must go through the stages of feeling, not only the last death but all the earlier little (and not-so-little) deaths. If we bypass these emotional stages by easy answers, all they do is take a deeper form of disguise and come out in another way. Many people learn that the hard way—through depression, addictions, irritability, and misdirected anger—because they refuse to let their emotions run their course or to find some appropriate place to share them. Job is unafraid to feel his feelings. He acts and speaks them out. Emotions ought to be allowed to run their course. They are not right or wrong; they are merely indicators of what is happening. 

I am convinced that people who do not feel deeply finally do not know deeply either. It is only because Job is willing to feel his emotions that he is able to come to grips with the mystery in his head and heart and gut. He understands holistically and therefore his experience of grief becomes both whole and holy.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), 53, 54–55.  

Image credit and inspiration: Siim Lukka, untitled (detail), 2017, photo, Estonia. Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. We make room for our personal and collective grief by letting the sorrow burn through.

Story from Our Community:  

As a young adult, I lived a more solitary life close to nature, and I loved the experience. I then moved to a small city where I felt nurtured by the people I would meet and chat with. Over the years, I’ve realized that those small moments of connection have truly helped me feel God’s presence. I still love spending time alone in nature, but I have come to believe God’s place for me is in community with others. 
—Tom L. 

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