When we face substantial suffering, our common impulse is to run from it. We have been considering the fact that the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth may be calling us to lean into the trial that we face, to feel it, and eventually to profit from it. To do this well as worshipers of God, it may help us to speak honestly to God as we experience even the deepest despair.
Job says here, “I loathe my life.” He continues to address the Lord directly from the bitterness of his own soul. God does not ask us to pretend that everything is all right. It is not all right. A horrible road is being traveled by the Lord’s servant, and he need not wear a fake mask with a smile on it. That kind of hypocrisy will not do. Above all, we need to be honest with God who already knows our emotions more fully than we do ourselves.
Job asks the question that everyone seems to ask in his worst moments of horror: “Why?” His understanding of these events and his words to the Almighty show forth his understanding that God is a personal being, and that these events have come somehow from His throne. He says, “Let me know why you contend against me.”
Job understands himself to be the work of God’s hands. He knows he is good, just as all the creation of God is good (1 Timothy 4:4). For the Lord to hurt him, he thinks, is to favor the designs of the wicked. Job has questions for God, genuine questions that flow from the anguish of his soul, questions to which he does not know the answer. Some of these questions take the Lord’s servant from the topic of his own pain and loss to a consideration of who God is. This can be a good thing. In Job’s pain, he wonders whether God is somehow like a man. Does God see as a man sees, or is it something different altogether? Is God pretending to learn something through this, since the Lord must know that Job is not guilty of the things his friends insinuate about him?
One fact is central to all of Job’s thoughts: “God, you made me.” Then a question follows close on the heels of this fact: “Are you just going to destroy me altogether now?”
God was the creator of Job’s body. He was also the maker of Job’s excellent character. Are both his frame and his spirit to amount to nothing? God gave Job steadfast love. Will all of that be swallowed up in despair? Will it all turn to bitterness? Surely the Lord had a purpose in His own Almighty heart. Will everything in Job end in this broken and sad lament?
Job cannot see a way out of this. He cannot find a path that will lead to his vindication. Should he sin like a madman now, after living what he honestly believes to be a righteous life? No, he knows that the One to Whom he speaks in his cries is watching him, and God will not acquit him of iniquity. As he is now, he is already on display before the world as if he were a disgraced man. Even if his health and position were somehow restored, can Job know that the Lord will not do this to him again, working wonders against him?
“What is the meaning of my life?” This is not a passive question from Job in a quiet moment of reflection. It is personal. This is the life that God has given to him at this moment. If it is to have some meaning, only God can say. Job has no answer. He concludes this speech with the same desire he expressed earlier, for God to rewrite the past, to take him from the womb to the grave. If not, he asks God to leave him alone. Bring on the darkness. What else is there?
Because Job’s character is so great, for him to be brought so low before the eyes of the gaping world is repulsively dark. But it was a far more appalling day when the Son of God was nailed to the cross. Was He guilty? Not in the least. Was He publicly humiliated before the world? Yes. His title, “King of the Jews,” was mockingly written in three languages. The cross speaks a word of the worst disgrace. On that cross, the Son of Man cried out to God. Was he heard?
Yes, He was heard. And early on the first day of the week after that darkest day, a new era dawned. Somehow, in the light of the cross and the resurrection, a better light shines on the troubles of Job, the righteous servant of the Lord. This Job was saved by Jesus. Though he could not understand what was happening to him, Job called upon the Name of the Lord and was saved. Now we see his losses from the vantage-point of that brighter New Testament day. Yet the day of our own despair may still be amazingly hard for us to understand. Let us continue to call on the Name of the Lord, knowing that a still brighter and eternal day has been won for us through the worst suffering ever known to man.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Great God, what can a righteous man do when he hates his life? Keep us from guilt in our thoughts and our words. Father, You have made us. You are the Friend of those who truly serve You. What are You doing to us? Could it be that You are fighting against Your friends? Lord, we cannot win a contest against You. Is a relationship with You too dangerous for us to survive? Surely You know how to shorten the days of a trial that we cannot bear. Give us a glimpse of a better day. Help us to trust You again, and to live.