These last few years have stirred up a lot of raw emotion. The Medical Pandemic, the Social Pandemonium, and the Political Partisanship have given rise to anger, frustration, division, and confusion. We need to know how to respond to angry, frustrated, and confused people.
You have heard it said and have probably said it yourself. When someone gets really worked up – a spouse, a child, a friend, a colleague – and in their agitation blurt out something really awful and hurtful to you or about you, you react with “Aha! Now I know how you really feel and think about me.” Yet it would be more accurate to say, “Aha! Now I know what you are really feeling and thinking about me – at this moment under this stress in this current circumstance.” Why say it this way? Because in the next fifteen seconds they can feel something different and think something different. The book of Job illustrates this well.
Do you intend to reprove my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind? Job 6:26
We have all heard of the patience of Job. The patience of Job lasts for two chapters and pretty much the rest of the book is Job giving expression to his impatience. In chapter three he wishes he was never born and that he was a miscarriage and a lot of other pretty dark stuff. His friend Eliphaz begins to take him to task in chapters four and five for saying such foolish things. One of Job’s responses to Eliphaz I have quoted above. Job is basically saying, “Hey, I’m in a lot of pain and confusion and my life has just been turned inside out and upside down and if I say some goofy stuff, give me a break! Cut me some slack! I’m blowing off steam! My words are like vapor and are nothing and belong to the wind.”
It is so easy for us to get worked up into righteous indignation when someone says something goofy and gives voice to judgmental thoughts, unworthy motives, and ungodly desires. We think that we need to jump in and correct them and rebuke them and be the instrument whereby they repent and bow the knee before the throne of God. But if you can get Job’s counsel under your belt, it will save you a whole lot of energy getting worked up into unnecessary righteous indignation. Job said he was in despair. The word ‘despair’ in Hebrew carries the sense of being frustrated to the point of hopelessness. Those in despair, those who are frustrated unto hopelessness don’t need our righteous indignation, they need our understanding and compassion. They desperately need the mercy of Christ. Unfortunately, they often meet with the buzz saw of the Church.
Friends of my wife and I had a child who died in infancy. I went to be with them and my friend and I took a walk. He was giving voice to his grief and despair and was cussing and saying some unkind things about God. He even used four letter words. After going on for a while like this, he looked at me and said, “Aren’t you going to rebuke me for the things I’ve been saying.” I said, “I think that God is big enough to absorb your pain and confusion. If I thought that the things you’ve said was your settled attitude, I’d address them, but they’re not settled attitudes, they’re fleeting emotions and momentary thoughts. You’re blowing off steam.” He said that he knew this to be true and appreciated my approach to the whole thing. If what he gave voice to was his permanent attitude, he would no longer be walking with God. But he continued to walk with God. His words belonged to the wind. I let them float away.
“The words of one in despair belong to the wind.” Let them float away.
You are hereby relieved of what you have perceived to be your holy duty of rebuking those who say goofy and stupid stuff – to you, about you, to God, about God – when their lives have been turned upside down and inside out, when they are in the stress of the moment and in the heat of battle. You don’t need to uncomfortably clear your throat or look down while shifting your feet or give them the stink-eye or gasp as if your halo will warp if you listen to one more word. Let them vent. Cut them some slack. Let them blow off steam. This will help us relax and enjoy each other during this stressful season.
The words of one in despair belong to the wind. Job 6:26