Where do we find our satisfaction in a day when our best memories only bring deep sadness? Until someone has experienced this kind of loss he may imagine that good memories will always be good, and that only bad memories, shame, and regret will be troublesome. In the previous chapter we were able to see something different by connecting with the loss of this righteous man, Job. The happy past is gone, and those memories do not yet bring joy but pain. The reason for the pain is not the past itself, but the sadness of the present and the flaming sword of God prohibiting his return to a happier day.
Paradise is lost, yet there is still life. “But now,” Job begins in this chapter, “they laugh at me.” It is a common observation that we may not truly appreciate what we have until it is taken away. The respect that Job may have once taken for granted is gone. Job lived in a culture where older men who had proven themselves wise were respected by others, and where the children even of the foolish would learn to show deference to the most honored members of the community. But now Job has fallen at the intersection of various tragedies that could barely have been imagined before they came to pass. He has been brought low not only in terms of his emotional condition, but also in the esteem of others who have decided that these events must be a sign of the Lord’s displeasure with a man they once counted great. Even the most wretched people now think themselves to be superior to Job.
They are not quiet or discreet in their disrespect of the Lord’s suffering servant. They have songs about Job and have turned his story into a proverb of what happens to the man with secret sin. They consider him unclean and come near only to spit in his presence, to push him till he stumbles to the ground, and to prevent him from continuing on his way. They are a crowd of enemies who roll over him. His honor and prosperity are gone like a vapor that has passed away from sight and is forgotten.
Job’s life, is being poured out like a man who is slowly dying from hidden wounds. Each day is an enemy that takes hold of him, shaking his weak frame and leaving him worse off than the day before. There is no relief in the night, for his pain admits no rest. In the awful present of Job’s existence, the greatest trouble that he faces is not from the people around him, or the physical and emotional pain within him. His greatest distress is not even from unbelief, but from faith. He knows that God is, and he knows that God rules. God has cast him into the mire. Do not think that Satan is the one who has done all this. Satan is not the Almighty One. God is in charge. God decrees. God must permit. Job’s faith troubles him now. He knows that God is God.
Job cries out to the Almighty One, but where is His help for His beloved servant in this time of distress? Job knows that God sees and that God alone knows the truth. He feels the severity of the Lord’s sovereign power. He feels the unrelenting persecution of events that he knows to be in the Lord’s ultimate control. All that seems left to him now is death. He is desperate, but what can he do?
It is our instinct to look for someone who is more powerful who can help us in a day of disaster. Job knows this from the giving end, but now he is in the receiving position. He used to hear the cries of the poor and the oppressed, and he would come to their aid. He was not emotionally detached from the troubles of others. He wept for them and he grieved at their losses. But now he cries out, and where will his help come from?
The past is the past. The former days of blessing are gone. What is left is the seemingly unending “now,” and God cannot be found. Will this ever end?
When Isaiah spoke of the sufferings of the coming Messiah, he prophesied that Jesus would be despised and rejected by men. Yet the deepest pain that our Redeemer faced was not the hatred of a mob, the denial of a disciple, or even the betrayal of a friend. He knew that He had come to earth to face the wrath of God for us. There was no other way to atone for our sin. So the prophet writes, “It was the will of the Lord to crush. He has put Him to grief.”
Jesus suffered this for us. When we suffer deeply as people of faith, we do not atone for anyone’s sins. We could never do that. But we do face the problem of our faith. Where is our sovereign God who works all things together for our good and His glory? This is not the cry of unbelief, but the pain of belief. Perhaps it is of some comfort to those who face this kind of distress to remember that Job, and especially Jesus, faced the agonies of faith. The Son of God went through that trial for our salvation.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord, we thought that we had the insight that we needed to keep on going, and then in just a moment we were struck again by thoughts of trouble and accusation. We have been humbled again, and the wicked scoff. Your Son was mocked by rude soldiers who knew nothing of Your covenant. Why, O Lord? What was the purpose of the crown of thorns? Was that necessary for our salvation? Did every detail of His suffering for us have a purpose? Surely all of this was ordained. You love Your Son, and You love us. We have been united with Him in His sufferings. We will also be united with Him in His resurrection.