Several days ago, on one of our biweekly walks, Jen shared the following insight from her neuropsychology class: according to current research, in moments of acute and chronic stress, our pituitary gland releases a surge of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone released both during and after childbirth, and due to the critical role it plays in relational intimacy, is often referred to as the “bonding hormone.” Essentially, it’s a connecting hormone.
What’s so miraculous about this discovery? It appears that in moments of acute and chronic stress (which are often associated with pain, fear, and despair) our bodies are physiologically-geared for connection. The mind/brain/soul matrix that makes us uniquely human, senses that we need others to come alongside of us during times of duress. In our dark night of the soul, science is discovering what Job already knew thousands of years ago.
I can’t help but wonder if Job experienced this oxytocin surge in 1.20. Within the span of a chapter, Job loses everything (well almost everything. He takes another significant hit in chapter 2). He's animal-less, servant-less, and childless. He doesn’t merely lose his car keys, get a speeding ticket, or drop his cell phone in the toilet. Rather, his entire livelihood is shot; his life is decimated. If ever there was a dark night of the soul, ever an acute (or chronic) stress situation, this would be it.
In 1.20, we discover that “Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped” (ESV).
Job's response is interesting for several reasons. He is clearly distraught. His outward actions—tearing his robe and shaving his head—are cultural expressions of grief. The Hebrew word קוּם (kūm), translated as “arose,” refers to both a physical standing up, as well the rapidity with which Job reacts to his situation. The verse can thus be translated as “Job immediately began to tear his robe.” * Yet, it’s the latter portion of the verse which is most intriguing.
In the midst of his anguish and desperation, Job worships. Job doesn’t merely fall to the ground, succumbing to his grief, but rather, reaches out to God in the very midst of his pain and heartache. Job seeks connection. He needs support. He knows that his Creator is powerful enough to comfort him in his misery. Job’s grief response is immediate, yet so is his worship.
It's in worship that we discover who God is. As we honor and exalt him, we recognize that relationship is at his core. In praising him, we experience the peace, comfort, and calm that comes with submitting our souls to the only One who truly understands. We give God glory, and in response, God sees our hearts and hears our cries. It’s in worship that we realize God is a connecting God.
In moments of our own grief and loss, or in situations where a diagnosis is uncertain, may we bring our anguish before God. May we understand that God has designed us for connection with him and with others. May we recognize that worship is always the right response, no matter how despondent we feel or how hopeless a situation seems. Like Job, may we reach out to God with immediacy, trusting that our souls will be buoyed by this connection.
*NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, LLC. 1996.