Job’s depression was very extreme. Similar accounts of depression can be found in the psalmist’s lamentation (Psalm 88) and by Jeremiah (20: 14-15). God’s servants have expressed grief for millennia. Lamenting and complaining are acts of worship. Where did we lose the awareness that feeling and sharing our emotions is appropriate?
I read an article by Michael Pulley this morning in the Springfield News-Leader, he wrote: “Then the darkness of depression, a malady many of us face and recognize – sometimes daily, sometimes suddenly and intermittently. William Styron, in his memoir, ‘Darkness Visible’ wrote that depression ‘is a true wimp of a word for such a major illness.’ We who are being treated for it often cower in its darkness, hoping no one will notice or, at least, not comment upon it. Sometimes the dark is so encompassing we wonder if light exists only for others, not us. Yet, I’ve discovered entering dark periods could possibly be transformative. Richard Rohr: ‘Wise people tell us we must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers or conclusions, and in some days without meaning.’ Perhaps somewhere embedded in dark is the yearning for light, maybe a path to light.” What an apt description. Kudos Michael Pulley.
Based upon the description of what Job suffered, it is quite reasonable and understandable that he was depressed and very close to a total breakdown. Though Job does not curse God, he does take God to task regarding God’s wisdom in allowing him to be born. It is very clear that Job wished he had died at birth and would gladly die if God were to allow it (3:20-22). I am very glad that God inspired the writers of scripture to pen the many accounts of suffering in the bible.
Many people have suffered grievously. Too often they receive responses that are very akin to those provided by Job’s “friends”. Like the “friends, they use scripture to support and bolster their opinions: that suffering is the direct result of sinning. But, remember, God described Job to Satan as thus: “… there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”. Though what his friends said sounded convincing, and even included defenses of God, they got it very wrong. We will visit that in more detail later.
Let us be very careful in the ways we respond to those who are suffering. It may just be that we do additional damage to the poor souls. Sympathy, empathy, support, and encouragement are certainly warranted and helpful. If you do not know what to say, remain silent.
I vividly remember the times I poured my heart out to God. I was angry and even begging Him to end my life. I was less appropriate than Job. I was hostile in my reactions to God. I have told a very few people the extent of my outbursts. They were raw. I let God have it. I was fearful at first that He would turn me into a “grease spot”. I was then angry that He did not. Remarkably, He loved me. That experience was very instrumental in helping me learn that I only hurt myself if I am not honest with God. He is omniscient. If I do not speak to Him, I hurt only myself.
Recently, I talked with a person who asked if it would be appropriate to ask God for an apology. The individual has suffered excruciating losses and abuse. My response: “You are only hurting yourself if you do not have a conversation with God about your feelings. The individual was soundly scolded by a couple of other Christians who did not think it should be done. Being honest with God was pivotal in healing for the individual.