I once had a surgeon tell me I wasn’t a very good patient because I tried to “gut it out,” instead of being honest about the pain I was experiencing. Apparently, it’s hard on a healer when a patient masks their symptoms; making a diagnosis can become a bit like trying to shoot at a moving target.
My doctor believed my stubborn refusal to admit pain reflected my lack of trust in his competence as a physician. In Job chapter three, we see that Job is honest about his own pain, which is a clear indicator that he truly wants to be healed and trusts in the competence of the Great Physician. It would take me a long time to learn that instead of exacerbating a painful experience, honest tears and the acknowledgment of pain can actually serve as a soothing pressure relief valve.
By contrast, between the amped-up sensation of reality television, the shrieking discord of current political affairs, and the twenty-four/seven barrage of social media that has saturated our culture, it’s entirely possible for real trauma and suffering to go unnoticed and untended. We rush to triage emotional hangnails but completely ignore the people around us who are bleeding out. Silence doesn’t always indicate bravery, but it is a pretty good indicator that we might not notice when someone is truly suffering.
Job’s outburst is a healthy reminder that our Redeemer doesn’t rank our emotions on a scale from good to bad, allowing only “good” emotions like joy and peace while barring “bad” emotions like grief and disappointment. We do not have to censor ourselves before the God who knows our hearts better than we do. Scripture doesn’t instruct us to smile on the outside while we die on the inside—just the opposite, in fact (see 1 Samuel 1). Frankly, I believe one of the biggest fallacies perpetrated in communities of faith is that the closer we get to Jesus, the more we need to keep a lid on it. Stoicism is not a spiritual gift, y’all!
We need to understand there’s a colossal difference between disagreeing with God and denying His existence altogether. Job cursed the day he was born and expressed confusion, frustration, and even anger, at God over allowing tragedy to befall him—but he did not reject God. In fact, the tormented exasperation Job hurls toward God proves that he is anything but an atheist! He knows God holds all things together.
Faith powered by God can stretch us far beyond our own capacity to endure. Still, it’s not our anguish that distances us from God; it’s our apathy. The main takeaway from Job chapter three: we can and should continue to bring all of who we are—including our anger, confusion, and disappointment—before God. We can trust Him with every piece of our hearts.