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.”
Job 7:11 NRSV
“God, I am mad. No, furious, irate. And you know what, God? I am mad at you. I have so much anger inside me right now, God, that I don’t know what to do with it. So, God, I’m going to be angry at you because you’re the only one I know large enough to handle this much pain and this much fury.”
This is a rough transcript of a prayer I once prayed. The original was probably longer and I know it included some choice swear words. My prayer was far from being as eloquent as Job’s complaint to God, but both prayers came from a place of deep pain. I prayed this prayer about two weeks after I found out that my husband and I had lost our first baby. It was my twelve week appointment and I had gone to my OB’s office happy. I was excited to have my first ultrasound and finally see my child. Instead I found out that my baby had stopped developing weeks before, but my body had not realized this. My stomach had begun to grow. I was nauseated and exhausted. I had all the signs of a healthy pregnancy except the most important- a growing baby.
In the following days and weeks I felt a barrage of emotions: grief, loss of hope, helplessness. Most of all, however, was an overwhelming sense of betrayal. My body had betrayed me, fooling me into singing at night to a child who was not there, into rubbing my belly when I thought no one was looking. The bigger betrayal, though, came from God. Bible verses like Jeremiah 29:11 that once held promise now seemed to be full of cruel mockery. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” I felt harmed. My hope seemed to have evaporated.
My feelings of betrayal filled me with anger. This was a burning, almost soul-crushing anger. My body did not feel strong enough to contain such rage. So, as I prayed my prayer, I did not hold back. Like Job, I complained in the bitterness of my soul. I balled up all the anger I felt inside of me, all my feelings of betrayal and I threw them at God. Part of me wanted to hurt God just as much as I was hurting. The rest of me just wanted to find a safe place to put the rage, somewhere that it could not harm me or my husband.
I would like to say that this prayer healed me. It didn’t. I still felt betrayed and I was still mad. Even as I write this seven years later, I find myself crying as I relive the experience. The grief can still be raw. It would have been foolish to expect instant comfort; it took Job forty-two chapters to reach a new equilibrium. What this prayer did, however, was start the long process of healing. I began to feel like I could breathe again. Eventually I was able to pray again, too.
Just this last Sunday in church school, my class was discussing the topic of prayer and one theologian’s statement that all prayer is based in gratitude. One class member asked if there could be gratitude in lament. I told an abbreviated account of my conversation with God and as I was talking I had a realization that even my lament to God, my anger at God had an element of gratitude at its core. I had no gratitude that I lost my baby. I am not nor will I ever be able to be grateful for that. Instead, even as I was in the depths of my anger I knew where to turn. God took my rage and instead of judging me for it absorbed it into God’s self. Even though I could not see it at the time, I will be forever grateful that God was big enough to take and hold my anger when it was too big for me.