"The Gulf Between Faith and Correctness"
The Hidden Face of God, pg. 131-134
July 25th 2019
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know....
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42: 3, 6
My youngest son, Nathan, is one of the most tenderhearted people I have ever known. He possesses a set of emotional antennae that draw him automatically to the most hurting person in any crowd. At the same time, he also has a wonderful mind. He enjoys deep discussions about topics like truth and the nature of God. I know he is my son, but I have never known anyone like him.
However, his unusually perceptive concern for the hearts of other people, combined with a remarkable intuition, frequently presents him with a problem. In any given situation, he will know what he needs or wants to say, but his concern for others will keep him from saying it. Recently, Nathan wanted something from thestore, but knowing that money was tight at the moment, he did not ask for it. In fact, when I asked, he denied wanting it. He felt that to say what he wanted would be "wrong." So he opted for saying what was "correct," not what was faithful to his heart at the moment. It is a struggle I hope he comes to understand more clearly as he grows up.
Lament teaches us that sometimes there is a gulf between faith and "correctness." Sometimes faithfulness demands a transparency from us that requires us to say things that, strictly speaking, are not correct. But theGod who is as intensely concerned with our hearts as with our minds encourages such honest conversations. He wants us to tell Him how we are feeling as much as what we are thinking - especially when we are tempted to think that what we are feeling may be "incorrect."
Job probably said more incorrect things to God than all the other characters in the Bible combined. Yet, even with all his untruths, God seems to have been incredibly fond of him; in fact, He boasted that He had never known anyone like His "son" Job (Job 1:8; 2:3; 42:8).
But still Job became acquainted with all our grief a thousand years before the Man of Sorrows wept. Everything a person can lose, he lost: his possessions, his health, the respect of his wife and friends, and most gut-wrenchingly, his children. He suffered at the hands of terrorists, the Sabeans and the Chaldeans, who killed his servants. He was forced to defend his own innocence before his friends, who should have known andtrusted him better. He sits on the ash heap, surrounded by his companions, the loneliest man in the Old Testament. As he wrestles with God in lament, many of the things he says are profoundly untrue. Some of these untruths must have broken the heart of the God who loved him so dearly. Listen to the disturbingly incorrect voice of a man who nonetheless remains faithful to God:
The arrows of the Almighty are in me...
God's terrors are marshaled against me." (Job 6:4, JPS)
If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? (7:20, JPS)
Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing. (9:16, JPS)
Does it please you to oppress me...,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked? (10:3, JPS)
Turn away from me so I can have a moment's joy. (10:20, JPS)
You destroy man's hope. (14:19, JPS)
God assails me and tears me in his anger
and gnashes his teeth at me. (16:9, JPS)
God has turned me over to evil men
and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.
All was well with me, but he shattered me;
he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
He has made me his target;
his archers surround me.
Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
and spills my gall on the ground.
Again and again he bursts upon me;
he rushes at me like a warrior. (16:11-14, JPS)
God has wronged me. (19:6, JPS)
He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
he uproots my hope like a tree. (19:10, JPS)
Again and again Job's friends remind him just how incorrect it is to speak to God in such ways (8:1; 11:2-3; 15:2-5). But Job rails back that he will not keep silent; he will speak; he will complain (7:11).
When it is all over and everyone has had his say, God tells Job's friends that He is angry with them. "You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has," he says (42:7). This is a remarkable statement, given the catalog of errors that have just flowed from Job's angry lips.
Job refused to say what he thought God wanted to hear. Even at the risk of his life, as an act of faith, he became completely transparent and told God exactly what was in his heart. It was not "correct" but it was true. In the end the apology does come. "I spoke of things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.... I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (42:3, 6). Job is sorry for the things he said, but they still had to be spoken. They have become a part of God's perfect Word.
As we struggle in our search for the hidden face of God, lament encourages us to never give up, to never quit the conversation. We may kick and scream if we must, and when we don't have the words, the Bible will provide them. But never, never, never let go of God. Never walk away.