New Days Begin in the Dark

Scripture Focus: Job 3.25-27
      25 What I feared has come upon me; 
         what I dreaded has happened to me. 
      26 I have no peace, no quietness; 
         I have no rest, but only turmoil.” 

Psalm 6.3-6
      3 My soul is in deep anguish. 
         How long, LORD, how long? 
      4 Turn, LORD, and deliver me; 
         save me because of your unfailing love. 
      5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. 
         Who praises you from the grave? 
      6 I am worn out from my groaning. 
         All night long I flood my bed with weeping 
         and drench my couch with tears. 

Reflection: New Days Begin in the Dark
By John Tillman

As Job mourns what he has lost, he curses the day of his birth. He avoids cursing God but he curses the day of his creation and he alludes to creation events.

Job does not want God to “care about” the moment of his birth. This alludes to God “hovering” over the waters which birthed the land. He does not want God to speak light, but to let the darkness overwhelm him. (Job 3.4) He wishes for no stars and no morning light to come. (Job 3.9) He wants time itself to ignore the day, leaving it unrecorded on a calendar. He wishes for creation to be barren and for the chaos monster, Leviathan to be roused. 

Job’s despair led to a desire for deconstruction, uncreation, death. It’s a common thought process. For the past two years, Netflix has created darkly comic documentaries about the year: “Death to 2020” and “Death to 2021” 

Many now mourn, like Job. Loss, violence, and plague have come. Famine of basic necessities has struck countries, like the United States, unused to the slightest inconvenience. Famine of spiritual things also has fallen—a famine of faith, a famine of hope, and a famine of love. 

But the most terrible of these is a famine of love. This is the dark chaos many feel.

A Jewish day does not begin at the stroke of midnight or the rising of the sun but at the sun’s setting. Genesis establishes this pattern: “there was evening and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1.5) It’s a modern development for us to think a new day, or a new year, begins at the stroke of midnight. However, new days do begin in the dark. 

The world began when God hovered over dark chaos and spoke light. Humanity began when God molded earth and breathed life into it. Though like Job, sufferers may wish destruction, unmaking, or death to our pasts, we can be assured that God intends life, light, and hope for us. He will hear and answer our cries.

God does hover, caringly over our dark chaos. He does cause his light to shine on us. He marks our days with stars in the heavens and sends the Morningstar to rise in our hearts. The Holy Spirit guarantees even the darkness of death will succumb to light.

Every good thing the Father of lights has for us will come. Even in the dark.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; let us exalt his name together. — Psalm 34.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 3 (Listen – 2:32) 
Psalm 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

From John: In this new year, we are tweaking our reading plan. We will still read all of the same books as are typically in our “even year” plan. However, we will read them in a roughly chronological order. We will not jump around from book to book (many books are written in overlapping times) but we will read them in an order that is as close to chronological order without breaking the books up. Readers have expressed interest in this and we are looking forward to seeing scriptures fall at new times of the year and becoming more familiar with how the writers of scripture depended on one another and finding new connections as we read in this manner. We will work on a graphic of the new reading plans over the next couple of months and will provide it when it is available. Thank you for your readership and for your prayer and financial support! Happy New Year!

Read more about Lamenting With Job :: Guided Prayer
With the help of the Holy Spirit lament can swallow up complaining in our lives. Lament is frequent and important in the Bible and should be in our lives.

Read more about A Generational Lament
God accepts the prayer of the despairing and the cries of the frustrated and broken more quickly than the prayers of the proud.

Lamenting With Job :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Job 3:20–26
“Why is light given to those in misery, 
and life to the bitter of soul, 
to those who long for death that does not come, 
who search for it more than for hidden treasure, 
who are filled with gladness 
and rejoice when they reach the grave? 
Why is life given to a man 
whose way is hidden, 
whom God has hedged in? 
For sighing has become my daily food; 
my groans pour out like water. 
What I feared has come upon me; 
what I dreaded has happened to me. 
I have no peace, no quietness; 
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Reflection: Lamenting With Job :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Job’s language is harsh and bitter when he speaks of his suffering. He doesn’t quote platitudes. His words do not sound like “prayer.” He curses his own life and wishes that he had been stillborn. He curses the joy of his conception. He curses every circumstance or kindness that brought him to life.

Job’s prayers are not perfect but they perfectly express what is inside his heart. The scriptures specifically tell us that in nothing he said did he sin. (Job 1.22)

Complaining is a sin that separates us from God. Lament is a powerful prayer that connects us to God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, who will pray on our behalf when we are unable to form words, lament can swallow up complaining in our lives. Lament is frequent and important in the Bible and should be in our lives as well. 

The prophets lament. (Habakkuk 1.2-4)
Approximately 50% of the Psalms are lament. (Including Psalm 22, quoted by Christ on the cross)
Christ laments. (In Gethsemane and on the Cross)
Paul laments. (Romans 9.1-5)

May we lament through this prayer mixed with Job’s words from Job 3.20-26. 

Prayer for Lament:

You have given us light, even in our misery.
Help us to lament, Lord.

Help us to take our unvarnished pain to you, God. 
Help us to know that we need not soften our language or hold our tongues when we are hurting. 
You have already heard the worst of our thoughts before we speak.
We release our pain to you through our words and our wordless cries…

You have given us life, Lord, even though we are trapped in death.
Help us to lament our sin.

No matter how righteous we feel, Lord, remind us we are like dust.
Show us your holiness that makes ours look like filthy rags.
Fill us with your spirit and expel from us every complaining spirit.

Give us your presence as our daily bread, rather than the bread of our sufferings.
Help us to lament with you.

Rather than complain about our sufferings as if you did not know about them or as if you caused them…
Let us instead recognize that you are in our sufferings with us. Let us share them with you. As we yoke ourselves to you, share the weight of our suffering, Lord, easing the strain on our hearts.

Hear our prayer. Give us peace.
Hear our cries. Give us quietness.
Hear our lament. Give us rest.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, 
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, 
So our eyes look to the Lord our God, unitil he shows us his mercy. — Psalm 123.1-3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 3 (Listen -2:32)
Romans 7 (Listen -4:09)

Read more about A Generational Lament
God accepts the prayer of the despairing and the cries of the frustrated and broken more quickly than the prayers of the proud.

Read more about Lamenting Our Detestable Things
God will find us and God will speak to us when we lament our culture’s sins as our own.