Monday, December 19, 2011

Michael Card on Job as interrupted lament; Jerram Barrs on Paul's despair of life itself

http://www.sbts.edu/resources/lectures/icw/worshiping-the-god-who-takes-everything-away/

http://graceseattle.org/Barrs112011.mp3

Michael Card's presentation discusses Job as a narrative in which Job attempts to offer a lament to God and is interrupted by his friends who correct what they are sure are his bad theology and sinful motives. The more earnestly and adamantly Job attempts to make his lament the more his friends intervene and declare his theology and character to be displeasing to God.  Eventually the argument devolves completely and Job stops lamenting and takes a stand about his case.  God shows up and Job retracts his case, then God declares that Job was in the right over against his friends.  I simplify quite a bit, I admit, but that's a thumbnail sketch of what is really quite a long book and a long presentation on the book.

Card's observation about the interrupted lament has stuck with me and I have wanted to write about it for some time.  Christians are enjoined to rejuice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep and how does a Christian discern when those times appear?  To put it more directly, if less obviously, who can know how long one should weep with those who weep?  There is a temptation or a testing in which one may want to discern whether or not one's weeping is a sign of either godly or ungodly sorrow, which was the test that Job's friends completely failed.  I cannot possibly improve upon an observation a friend of mine made about Job, that the book's message for believers is a warning that the right theology applied at the wrong time to the wrong person for the wrong reason is still bad theology.  My friend didn't put right theology in scare quotes.  We should be careful to avoid belittling the suffering of others simply because they do not express their grief or anger or despair in a way that we believe fails to adequately express proper theology. It's not that we have no concern at all about proper theology but that we recognize there are moments in which a person is only able to pray in terms of Psalm 88.

The lament Job raised which his friends interrupted was to curse the day of his birth.  Job had lost his children, his possessions, and his physical health.  His wife urged him to "bless God" and die.  Job refused to do this but he was willing to curse the day of his birth and it was in response to this his friends began to correct him.  Job had not descended to the point of being willing to end his life himself but it would not be a huge intuitive leap to say he had, nonetheless, despaired of life itself. 

Paul was not unfamiliar with what it was like to despair of life itself, as he explained to the Christians in Corinth in 2 Corinthians. If no less a believer than Paul could despair of life itself we should not imagine that we are weak Christians if we, too, face moments when we despair of life itself.  We should not consider ourselves giants of the faith, strong in our perserverance, if we have never despaired of life itself.  The apostle warned that if we think we stand we should take heed lest we fall. 

So if you haven't despaired of life itself yet, well, give it time, it will probably happen at some point.  It is not coincidental that Paul, in 2 Corinthians, opens with a thanks to the God of all comfort who comforts us in our distress so that we may comfort each other with the comfort with which we ourselves our comforted.  Christ Himself cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" from the cross.  Christ Himself asked that the suffering of the cross be taken from Him, if possible. 

I thought I had more to write about these things than I have actually written about.  Well, such is life.  At least I can link to the two presentations again.

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