A Proper Grief
by Lance Olimb
Job 2:13 (ESV) — And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
When Job’s friends encountered him in his suffering, it silenced them. We quickly learn it was not because they had nothing to say or simply couldn’t muster an opinion about his predicament. In fact, they would go on to pontificate fancifully from numerous angles. Though they were misguided in much of their subsequent counsel, I think they were correct in this initial instinct. They were initially silent because the evil that had befallen Job was so poignant and so great it rendered commentary initially unnecessary.
There is a kind of grievous tragedy that leaves you speechless. How do we handle the number 50? Gone in horrible moments of violence. Fifty. Takes your breath away. If I’m honest, that is just about where I’ve been the last week or so. Maybe you’ve been there too.
I’m not silent because there isn’t anything to be said. There is much to be said. There are probably few situations in the world where a Christian has more to say. Islam. Murder. LGBT. These are issues our faith speaks to directly, even before you consider the nuanced but very real political and policy implications. Perhaps even more uncomfortably, these are topics our faith specifically contradicts in numerous ways. It complicates things greatly if you are tempted to calculate whether it was appropriate for me to quote Job because Job was blameless and, well…
No one would blame a person for speaking on these topics. In time, you may properly harangue a Christian for not addressing these topics. They cut to the core of who we are as worshippers and image-bearers.
However, before we get too far down the road with commentary, we should put things in proper order. There is a time for all things, including a time to speak boldly and a time to lament. In situations like this we must define what posture Jesus has modeled for us? What kind of calling do we have? Are we called to mourn with those who mourn? Are we those called to speak peace to a world that is warring? Are we those called to endure ridicule in order to serve the lowly and undeserving?
If the answer is yes, then we need to put first things first. Let’s learn to mourn and sit. Let’s learn to lament and listen. There will be a time and a place and an opportunity to speak, but sometimes this fallen world must be met with proper, quiet, prayerful grief. Our unqualified laments can be our most effective means of service.
For a helpful article on this approach, we recommend Russell Moore’s Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando.