Jump Start # 2218
Job 3:1 “Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.”
I am teaching a Sunday class on the book of Job. We call it “Life lessons from Job.” This study is not intended to be a detailed study of the text of Job but rather a look at concepts, themes and lessons that we can learn.
Our verse today, begins the dialogue between Job and his friends. For a week they sat together and nothing was said. Job begins talking. He wishes that he was never born. At least, if he was born, he wishes that he had died that day. When we hear such words, we immediately say, “You shouldn’t talk that way.” Job is brutally honest. This is how he feels. It’s blunt, shocking and harsh. And, from this begins the longest section in the Bible of quoting uninspired people. More than thirty chapters, longer than most N.T. books, of Job and his friends going back and forth. No words from God. No prophets, apostles or Scriptures are quoted. Just a group of friends going back and forth. It is interesting that God has recorded these long speeches.
On of the things we observed in our class yesterday was that Job was honest. He didn’t hold back. Here is how I feel. I wish I was never born, is his thoughts. We have trouble with that. That open honesty scares us. We wear masks. We hide our feelings. We tell everyone who asks, “We are fine,” when there are many times that isn’t the case. And, for us especially, we hide how we are doing spiritually.
Our favorite masks are SMILES. We smile, and tell everyone we are fine. Another popular mask is SWITCHING THE SUBJECT. We are really good at that. “You look down today,” someone asks, and before another breathe can be taken we passionately say, “Man, did you see that ballgame last night? Wasn’t that incredible?” We’ve switched the topic right before their eyes and we do not have to reveal how we really feel. Another mask is to AVOID people. We leave quickly. We don’t talk to others. This way we don’t have to tell people how we feel. But the worst mask of all is DENIAL. “How are you doing,” someone asks, and our reply is, “Just fine.” Deception, denial and hiding the truth and by doing that we do not receive the help, the prayers and the encouragement that others can offer us. Living with these deceptions opens the door for other deceptions, especially with the Lord.
Now, why do we wear masks? Why can’t we be open like Job? Why don’t we just tell others, “I’m discouraged today.” Or, “I don’t feel like being here today.” Here is a list of reasons why we wear masks:
- We wear masks because we are embarrassed to tell others how we really feel.
- We wear masks because we think that’s what people expect. They expect us to always be smiling and joyful.
- We wear masks because we do not think anyone will understand. Why try. It’s easier to hide behind a mask.
- We wear masks because we are private.
- We wear masks because we do not think anyone really cares, can help us or what they say will work.
- We wear masks because we do not want to hear a lecture about all the things we ought to be doing.
- We wear masks because we do not want others to see us cry.
- We wear masks because we do not want to appear to have weak faith.
- We wear masks because we do not want someone to talk to the elders about us.
- We wear masks because we fear telling others will only make us feel worse, guilty or ashamed.
- We wear masks because we think that we are the only one with a problem.
- We wear masks because we fear that people will not like us if we told them how we truly feel.
- We wear masks because we think people may talk about us.
- We wear masks because we have had a bad experience with people in the past. We were honest before, and it didn’t turn out well.
But by wearing masks, it hurts ourselves. We suffer alone. We become like Elijah hiding in the cave. There, with our dark thoughts, we slip deeper into discouragement, and our faith begins to suffer. We feel alone, disconnected from others and our fellowship seems shallow, empty and useless.
James 5:16, “confess your sins to one another,” has been regulated to someone “going forward” on Sunday morning and the confession is one way. Tell you my sins? We’d never do that. We’d rather die first. We would be so ashamed, embarrassed and horrified. There is no way we do that. So, instead, we wear masks. We appear like artificial flowers. They look nice, but they must be dusted. They do not smell like real flowers and they do not feel like real flowers. From a distance, they can fool you, but up close everyone can tell that they are fake. And, this is exactly what wearing masks does for us.
Guests come on Sunday to our worship and many look like they have come from a battlefield. They are weary, hurting, and looking. They see us and we look perfect. Those masks hide how we really are. The guests do not come back. They move on looking for another place to find God. Those people are too perfect. I could never be like they are, is the thought. And the artificial flowers have fooled yet another person.
Shepherds try to guide a flock, not knowing the true condition of the sheep, because they are always wearing masks. They look happy. They look content. They look good. But if the masks were removed, the image may not the same. The shepherds could help. The shepherds could lead the discouraged, the weak, the fainthearted and the unruly. They could build their faith. They could help them weather the storms. They could help if we were honest.
It’s hard to help others who are hurting, when we hide our own pains. People come to us because they believe we have it all together. We are so strong. We have perfect families. We never fuss in our marriages. We never have a doubt. We always want to be at worship. And, truth be told, pulling the masks off, we are not much different than anyone else. Even the shepherds have issues, struggles, battles and moments. We all do. There are days when the preacher needs to listen to his own sermons because he needs them as much as anyone else.
The problem with being honest, is that we don’t want to be the first one. You be honest first, and then I’ll be honest. If you lift your mask just a little bit, then I will lift my mask, just a little bit. Not too much. Not talking it completely off, that’s how we generally operate.
Our class next week will focus upon how do we take our masks off. I’ll wait until next Monday to write on that. Seeing the problem, that’s a start. Admitting that we wear masks, is the first step towards honesty. Believing that the masks may keep us safe is only a delusion. We really hurt ourselves by wearing masks. The preaching of the last generation, as good as it was, often never was personal enough to reveal weaknesses in our armor. As a result, our preachers seemed perfect, flawless. They weren’t, but you’d never know that. Their families knew. They never seemed to struggle. They never seemed to miss a step. And, the audiences that heard that preaching felt that they could never match such perfection. That was a problem. That created a need to wear masks.
Job was honest. It is painful to hear. It is hard to know how to respond to such bluntness. But he pulled the curtain back to show the world how he felt. We can learn lessons from that.
It’s time to put the masks down.