At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
On Monday we saw Job give voice to his grief. We talked about how you and I need to do the same, even if we’d rather not. It’s true that grieving authentically is important for mental and emotional health. But in the second section of this short passage, we see an equally significant reason for authentic grief. Job falls to the ground and worships – not before he grieves, but after. In times of sorrow, we cannot worship if we aren’t first honest in what we feel and think.
As people of faith, we acknowledge that our main goal is (or should be) to lead lives of worship in thought, word, and deed. But that doesn’t mean we should shortcut a critical process and jump straight to worship. And here’s why: Job’s worship comes directly out of his grief.
Job worships God as the source of all his blessings, and thus the rightful owner of those same blessings. Job essentially says, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. Everything in between is God’s.” He worships a God who has the power to give and take, and whose plans and purposes are beyond Job’s understanding. That’s a very nuanced and thoughtful response to tragedy. It doesn’t strike me as the first layer of grief expressed. Instead, it feels like a place Job arrived as he processed his grief. For context, I imagine Job lamenting his loss. I imagine him asking “why?”. I imagine him getting angry. Then I imagine Job realizing that all his success, wealth, and even family were not ever fully under his control or authority. Illness, death, and destruction cannot be controlled even by the most competent or prepared.
And so Job arrives at a place of worship – not necessarily thankfulness – but worship. His grief allows him to see a new side of God – not only as a giver, but also as a taker. And as a taker, Job sees a new facet to God’s power and plan. In his sorrow, Job engages in authentic worship – not worshipping the image of God he’s created or likes, but worshipping a God who is so far outside of scope and imagination, we cannot always understand why he does what he does. To finally understand how little of life is ours to control, and how wholly we must depend on God to sustain and provide.
If we do not allow ourselves to grieve, there are sides of God we will never see. We might only worship the God we want, not the God who is. In this, tragedy can be a gift.