Have you ever wished you could die? I’m not being flippant: there are times in people’s lives – many times for some – when all they want to do is close their eyes and never wake up. Too much pain, suffering and misery make life unbearable. Job sees nothing worth living for. Read vv.1-10 slowly, out loud is best. Feel its moving poetry, but feel the pain of the man who speaks this confession. He isn’t making art, he’s spilling his misery.
Job has to speak, his heart is overflowing. He speaks to God, howling out his anguish at his suffering. Job is doing what everyone does when suffering strikes: they confess that God is in charge of everything. And then they wrestle with the fact that this mighty God has found them out with such a bitter providence (vv.11-21). Suffering proves that noone, deep down, is an atheist: we know that He is there. Sometimes that very thought is torment.
When Job can go no lower, another friend arrives, Bildad. If you thought that Eliphaz was harsh, prepare for Bildad. Bildad strikes hard and fast: “Your words are a blustering wind” (8.1). He follows up with another blow, effectively saying that Job’s children died because of their sin (v.4). His counsel is then direct and crude: repent, and you’ll have even more than you had before (vv.5-7).
As Job is on the floor, gasping for breath, Bildad punches on, giving time-endorsed warnings about “all who forget God” (v.13, see vv.8-19). That’s right: Job, like they, will wither away and be forgotten, unless he repents. And if he does; well, happy days are ahead (vv.20-22).
Please. Deliver us from those who bring their wisdom. The world thinks that God works with a carrot and stick approach, smiling at the good, and rewarding it, and frowning at the bad, and punishing it. And many unbelievers assume that we can read God’s dealings – when they think He deigns to show up – from a reading of life’s events. The church knows better, or she should do. Life is messy, and uncertain. The only fixed points are the points of grace: the Gospel of grace tells us that an overwhelmingly holy God, whose justice should damn us all, embraces all who seek His grace in Christ. Christ was damned for us at the Cross. Now all that we have we have through grace. All that is true of God’s love for us is written in the Gospel promise, and not to be read out of the often haphazard events of life. Grace is sure, whereas the earthly blessings we long for are not.
By all means, seek to trace God’s hand in your life. That honours Him, and is the sign of a real, earnest faith. Be careful, though. Pride as well as despair will swallow those who obsess with the details of their lives. A better remedy – and the path to sanity for Job, his friends and for us – is that we seek the promises of grace. In Christ there is an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – and that is a treasure to be tasted in heaven.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, living for You is so complicated, and often so tiring! I confess, Lord, that I sometimes want the oblivion of a cynical atheism, and I try to push You away. I don’t want the sharp pains and emotional ups and downs of living by faith. Gentle Father, find me in my weak faith and my fitful discipleship. Lord, be gentle with me, that I might be gentle and encouraging with all of Your children. Amen.