There are times in our lives when silence is the best medicine. Think about it: how good it is to enjoy some peace and quiet, nothing to explain, no need to answer a thing, no questions asked, no comments or apologies. You see, these things can drain you mental disposition to serve God. There are times, however, when silence becomes a poison food causing twice as much trouble in your life.
I don’t do this all the time, but the other day I found myself reading some old stuff I’ve written on the narrative of Job. The text dealt with the silence of Job right after his being tested by God twice (Job 2:11-13), which meant to this poor man having his flesh and bones afflicted by Satan with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
We all know Job’s reaction to this. In his first test, when he lost his children and all his possessions, he didn’t hesitate to confess: “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” (Job 1:21). Shortly after, Job woke up one day and noticed something weird going on with his skin – painful sores (lit. malign tumors) began covering his body from head to toes. The way I see it, the Bible is talking about a man in his final days of life, who was still figuring out a way to recover from his previous tragedy. Now, after the second blow, Job can’t help thinking: “I lost all my children last week. Today I am covered with malign tumors. What is in store for me tomorrow but death itself?” His wife, way pass tired by now, who is not willing to wait for his death any longer, speaks from the bottom of her heart: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9) [Meaning: Oh, stop with this integrity crap! Why don’t you curse this God of yours? Maybe that is what he is waiting before hitting you with the last blow]. “Never!” Job said. “My integrity is not a bargain with God. Even if he decide to show me evil from this day forward, I will continue to fear him and walk in integrity in his sight for what he is!” That is the Job I know and love!
Now, here comes the part of his narrative that I don’t quite get it. Three friends of his heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place to show him sympathy and comfort him. (Job 2:11). Sometimes I wonder how they got to know about Job’s situation, because they were much too shocked! They did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven (Job 2:12). Either the report on Job’s situation was lacking a more consistent description or it was so bad that it was beyond description. Whatever the case, they were not prepared to see Job like that. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:13).
Seven days of silence! As I said above, seven days with no explanation, no answer, no questions asked, no comments or apologies. From both sides. What was going on? Why was Job not saying anything? Why were his friends silent? The answer to the latter is given (they saw that his suffering was very great), but we have no explanation for Job’s silence. The reason why I don’t understand this section is not because I think Job should’ve talked to them with similar confidence as he did previously. No. As I said, there are times when silence is a good medicine. What I don’t understand is the impact of seven days of silence on the life of someone like him.
Seven days of silence transformed the man into something else! The Job of the seventh day looked nothing like the Job of the first two chapters of the book. We cannot blame his friends for this, since they were silent. So, what caused the bitterness of the seventh day? What caused him to open his mouth and curse the day of his birth? (Job 3:1) What happened to the conviction that the God who gives is the same who takes away? What happened to the willingness to receive good and evil from God? In the first two chapters he was encouraged to bless the Lord by the fact that naked he came from his mother’s womb, but now wants to know: “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?” (Job 3:11-12) That is the reason of my perplexity. Well, I don’t know what caused such transformation in Job’s life; he does not say why. The remaining part of the book does not say it either, which makes me think that there is no way to know it for sure. Yet, this I know for sure: if seven days of silence can bring about a considerable damage to the heart of someone as upright as Job, what can it cause in my life?
It all comes down to this: I must have a friend who fears the Lord and is willing to “listen to my thoughts” before I reach the seventh day. I must never let my soul feed on silence, unless I am in a position where I can say:
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27)