Keep silent and let me speak: Job 13:13-19
A Lent Reflection for Friday, March 31st
By Rev. Anna Maloney
Lectionary reading: Psalm 31:9-16; Job 13:13-19; Philippians 1:21-30
Selected passage: Job 13:13-19
Job 13:13-19 NIV
Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come to me what may.
Why do I put myself in jeopardy
and take my life in my hands?
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
for no godless person would dare come before him!
Listen carefully to what I say;
let my words ring in your ears.
Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.
Can anyone bring charges against me?
If so, I will be silent and die.
These words from Job are directed to his well-intentioned, but painfully misguided friends. As they attempt to companion Job in his grief and desolation, they try to diagnose him. They are convinced that they know the cause of his suffering, and what he can do to fix it.
A little earlier in the chapter, after enduring their speeches and assumptions and a barrage of unsolicited advice, an exasperated Job lets them have it– he says, “You are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” (Job 13:4-5).
How many times have you wanted to shout something similar to a friend or loved one who was trying to fix instead of truly listen?
When I am in deep pain, I want to be understood and seen– and yet, it is very rarely the words of my friends that meet that need. Instead, it is their presence, their touch, their listening, and their willingness to not run away or dismiss my suffering that helps me know I am not alone. I wonder– what is it you need when you are feeling sad, hurt, or hopeless?
It strikes me that here in the depths of Job’s despair, what he needs from his friends is silence and presence (which, to their credit, they enact beautifully for the first seven days– it’s when they open their mouths that it all goes wrong!).
If anyone is to speak a word, let it be from God and God alone. Here at the end of himself, that is what he most deeply desires: a face-to-face encounter with the God who created him and knows the truth about his life.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”
I love the boldness and intimacy we hear in these words; Job is no stranger to God. Like in any honest, real relationship, talking to other people about the issue won’t do. Job wants to speak directly to God, and to hear what God might say to him.
If you’ve read to the end of Job, you know that God does indeed speak. God’s answer to Job is a litany of questions–some of them quite snarky!– that reveal God’s infinite wisdom and power in comparison to our limited understanding and place in the universe.
At the end of it all, Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 41:5-6).
God is God and we are not. God invites us to lean into this humbling reality. But here’s the beautiful thing– Job’s boldness and honesty is honored by God through it all. Job’s friends get a strong rebuke from God, but Job’s words and prayers are held up as an example of faithfulness. God wants us to seek him boldly and directly. God welcomes our honest words, including our anger and our grief. God’s deep desire is to know and be known by us– even, and maybe especially, when we are at the very end of ourselves and cannot see a way out.
What honest words do you need to say to God, face-to-face? Will you have the courage to hear what God might say to you in return?
And, how might you be a supportive, loving presence for one in your life who is suffering? Consider the challenge to simply be a listener, expressing your love and support in an embodied way.
God who speaks out of the whirlwind,
You are God and I am not. Thank you for seeing me and knowing me. I release my need for explanations and control. Thank you for showing me that my suffering matters to you, and that I am not alone. In your mercy, hear my prayer.
About the Author
Rev. Anna Maloney is a pastor and spiritual director-in-training. She and her husband live in the Twin Cities with their golden retriever pup and their 3 chickens: Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy! Anna is passionate about creating safe space for honest questions and dialogue. She dabbles in poetry, and is a big fan of live music, road trips, and belly laughs with friends.