The children of Israel already had God's presence in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and yet they complained about food and drink, even saying they would rather be back in Egypt as slaves. They never learned that his presence was and is always enough, and because of this they did not trust God and only saw their current physical needs. God was once again angry with them because he knew they didn't trust or desire him, and for their punishment they would wander in the dessert for 40 years until that generation died. They never saw or enjoyed the Promised Land (Ps. 95:8-11).
What Job Can Teach Us
During a women's retreat this year, our speaker said that when her daughter was a teenager she was diagnosed with cancer and had to have chemotherapy. Her daughter, who is now an adult, sees Job only as someone who complains about his misfortunes. She hasn't gotten to the heart of the Book of Job. Job and those of his time (and our time) believed that those who were good would live a happy life and those who were bad would live a sad and accursed life. God shows them this isn't true.
Job wanted one thing throughout the whole book, and that was an audience with God. Yes, Job wanted God to vindicate him and to answer his questions, but does this sound like a man who was just grumbling about his circumstances?
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Job indeed does get his audience with God. But instead of answering his questions, God says that his ways are not man's ways and that Job cannot begin to understand. In awe of God, Job says: "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted …. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you" (Job 42:2, 5).
The Difference Between Grumbling and Lament
When we grumble, we focus on ourselves and see only our physical needs. We don't want God's presence. Lament is, and always will be, about us being real with God, giving him all our emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on. And in the process of being real, we desire one thing: God's intimate presence.
All of us have a choice: we can grumble, we can pretend and wear masks, or we can be real. Being real staves off the temptation to grumble and gives us the freedom to take off our masks, seek God's presence, and dance to the songs pain has written for each of us.
Janelle R. Wangle is a poet and a prose freelance writer. Her sister Jayleen helps edit and refine her work.
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