Job lost his possessions, his children, his health, and his comfort. In all of this, he did not curse God. But after his friends sat without words, mourning with him for seven days, he did finally speak, and he began by cursing his “day;” that is, the day of his birth.
His speech was full of godly grief, the inspired poetry of a man of sorrows. There is a clarity of vision that can come to a man at such a time. Though he may not see everything well, he sees and feels loss, and he mourns. Job wished that he had never been born. More than that, he wanted that day entirely removed from the providence of the Almighty. Somehow it should have been reclaimed by the darkness of non-existence. It should have lost its place forever among the days of the year, so that when that month came in its season from that time forward, the day before it would proceed directly on to the day after it. It must disappear so that no one might mistakenly let forth a joyful cry on such a dark day.
There are those who seem to curse anything that is light. Job suggested that they be employed as experts in this task to curse this day when he was born. Let those who were angry and foolish enough to scream into the ears of some gigantic vicious beast, rousing up that Leviathan, scream to one who could bring destructive anger upon that day. Let there be such darkness over the stars, so even if people were gathered at the edge of the horizon, waiting for the sun to come up, they would see no glimpse of light off in the distance on that day. Why should that day be so dishonored? Because it was on that day when the womb that contained the tiny child that would be Job was not shut forever to keep the young one from seeing the light of the morning, and because of this birth, the eyes of a godly man had seen much trouble.
Job continued in his meditation with the word that so often brings no acceptable answer to the mourning soul: “Why?” He did not even say, “Why did I lose my possessions, my children, my health?” His question was deeper than that: “Why did I not die at birth?” Why were the knees of my mother there to provide me the first place to rest my living form in the world outside of the womb, her resting legs bent so that my frame could stretch out upon that couch of limbs, where my mother smiled at my eyes and I gazed in infant wonder at her face? Why were her breasts there for my nourishment and comfort that I might live and grow, only to face the miseries of this age that would one day come upon me so suddenly? Why did I not die soon after leaving the womb, to be in the place of the dead who are at rest, the place where even the greatest men go, despite their great endeavors and achievements? Even more, why did I not die prior to leaving the womb, an infant who would never have seen the light? I would have simply gone immediately where the departed live. There the wicked are finished oppressing others, and the weary find rest. Prisoners are not facing the lash of men or even the barking orders of someone in authority over them. Whether he was small or great on this earth, every man makes his way to that place of death, where even the slave is free of his master.
Why is anyone given the light of mortal life, only to face a destiny of misery here? Why are men kept alive who seek their own death more than hidden treasure? This kind of despair can come upon a person who has faced great loss and can see nothing good ahead; his time on earth seems to have come and gone, but he is still here, and he cannot understand why. God seems to have trapped him in life, in a world of misery, where memory has lost its sweetness through bitter association. He can’t eat with joy. He has his tears and his groans. He is not at ease. He’s in trouble. Why does such a man still live?
We must not be too quick to answer Job’s questions. First we should take a moment to hear what he is saying and to agree with him. While we live in a world where there are many wonderful displays of a Creator who is powerful, wise, and good, there is no doubt that there is something wrong. We should agree with that observation and not hide from it.
Then we may eventually be able to add this one thought: This world cannot possibly be the end of the story. From our recognition of misery and grief, and from the insight of some true hope beyond this world, we wait for the Voice of God to come. That Voice came through the words of the prophets of old, and then finally and perfectly that Voice came in one person: Jesus Christ, our Lord. Our Savior came into this world of despair, and he tented among us in mortal flesh. His death was the end of death for His beloved children, and His resurrection was the beginning of an eternal age of resurrection for those who have been redeemed by His blood. If this world of mortality and misery were the end of the story, we would have no good news to proclaim. But Christ has died for us and risen from the grave, enabling us to live now with both grief and grace.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, will You hear us when we have an unmeasured lament? Can it be possible that we would lament the day of our birth in our sorrow and that somehow those words would still be acceptable to Your ears? We do want to live today. Nonetheless we know that there is a pain and a turmoil that finally causes the strongest Sampson to tell his secret to some wicked Delilah. We know that You are sovereign. We absolutely refuse to believe that the trouble that comes upon us has some other first cause. Everything that happens must ultimately come back to You, for You are the Lord God Almighty, the God over all creation and providence. You can never be charged with wrong. You are love and goodness with absolutely no shadow of evil in You. Yet we will never reduce You to a mere spectator of this world or some sleeping giant. You know the beginning from the end, and You are working out Your holy will.