Suffering Silently? Longman and the Book of Job

Blake - Satan Inflicting Boils on JobThis is from a promotional blog post at Baker Academic’s blog for their Job commentary. I am not sure whether the comments are from Tremper Longman, the editor of that volume (the blog says “by Tremper Longman”) or not since it also says “posted by Bryan Dyer.” I any event… I am looking forward to looking at the volume and the post was of interest, striking the appropriate balance between recognizing that “present sufferings” are not simply the result of our personal sin. (“After all, we can control our pain that way. We can delude ourselves into thinking that as long as we are good, we won’t suffer.”) But the post’s penultimate paragraph concludes with the following.

While the book [of Job] makes it perfectly clear that Job’s suffering did not result from his sin, he never gets an answer about why he suffered. In a word, the book of Job tells us that we have to live with mystery. The book of Job shows us how God wants us to respond to the difficult things in our life. Yes, as many have pointed out, he allows us to rant and rail like Job does and the lament psalms illustrate. But ultimately like Job at the end of the book and the “man of affliction” in Lamentations 3, God wants us to submit silently before him and put our trust in him.

I am not sure that I agree with his conclusion that we are ultimately to “submit silently” before God. While conceding that God “allows us to rant and rail” this view would suggest that if we are a really good Christian (or Jew, since we are only considering Tanakh) we would skip the railing and go directly to silent submission. It is true that Lamentations 3 says:

25    The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

27 It is good for one to bear

the yoke in youth,

28 to sit alone in silence

when the Lord has imposed it,

29 to put one’s mouth to the dust

(there may yet be hope),

30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,

and be filled with insults.

 This comes in the midst, however, of an entire chapter (not to mention an entire book, of course I just mentioned it) that is nothing if not a litany of complaints against God, even while confessing their sins and accepting God’s justice. It is good to “sit alone in silence” and to “wait quietly” for the salvation of the Lord. But that does not mean that one is to only remain quiet and silent. These are all parts of our humanity to be embraced and experienced: grief, anger, frustration, confession, and ultimately submission.
Job’s example tells us that if it were not for Job’s protestations and declarations he would not have heard or seen God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Would God have spoken to Job had he not maintained his innocence? Would God have appeared if Job had not called upon God to explain his suffering? No, that is clear. As I have said before, although God does not directly answer Job’s complaints it is the fact that God appears and speaks to Job at all that is the encouraging message of the book. That would not have happened if Job had meekly an silently taken his lumps (or rather, his children’s deaths).

via Suffering and the Book of Job.

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