As I read through Job, I paused at Job 7 and wrote in my margin, “And the whining drones on…” It irritated me a bit.
Isn’t mankind consigned to forced labor on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired hand?
Like a slave he longs for shade; like a hired man he waits for his pay.
So I have been made to inherit months of futility, and troubled nights have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think: When will I get up?
But the evening drags on endlessly, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt. My skin forms scab and then oozes.
My days pass more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is but a breath. My eye will never again see anything good.
The eye of anyone who looks on me will no longer see me.
Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.
He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea or a sea monster, that You keep me under guard?
When I say: My bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint,
then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me with visions,
so that I prefer strangling—death rather than life in this body.
I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that You think so highly of him
and pay so much attention to him?
You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.
Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?
If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind?
Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave. You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.
God is reduced to “watcher of mankind,” as if He is not interested or invested in us? Ugh.
Or so I thought.
As I read it again, it gave me a bit of comfort. Not that I want to justify my whining. In fact, it was so ingrained in me as I grew up that whining wasn’t acceptable or worth any time spent on it, whining doesn’t even stay in my mind for long, let alone escape from my mouth very often. But I’ve done my fair share of whining with God. I might not identify it as whining, but when I honestly take a look at myself and my conversations with Him, I can see it through the years. Hopefully, less and less, but still there.
And I’m not sorry, either for my own or for the inclusion of Job 7. I certainly don’t want to drone on and on with no forward movement of faith. I suppose there are two kinds of whining: productive and unproductive. Unproductive whining doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. It’s “poor me” with little or no acknowledgement that anything, including ourselves, will change. It’s the kind of whining I don’t want to tolerate in myself or others for long, because it digs a pit for us to camp in and feel sorry for ourselves. Productive whining is different. Sometimes we need to talk through our “woe is me” as a reality check of the way things really are…with hope, a new sunrise, and a dependable God.
Maybe calling God “watcher of mankind” isn’t as bad as I thought. (In another translation, He is called “preserver of man.”) It is still acknowledging Him with some sort of authority. Maybe we all go through times when we can’t quite grasp who He is, not because He has changed but because of our circumstances. Maybe we need to work through where we are and where He is and how the two fit together, because we’re uncertain. Maybe there’s a bit of whiny involved, because we don’t like the uncertainty.
Maybe whining is the clue we need that we’re uncertain, need to wrestle a bit, and trust God enough to show us a glimpse of who He is for our tomorrows, not just our today.
“How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind.” (Job 8:1)