Friday, September 27, 2019

The Tribulations of Job

"After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth" (Job 3:1).

The first chapter of Job tells us that Job was the greatest man of all the people in the East. He had a large family, vast herds, and great wealth. He was by far the most prominent man in his political community. He was also a godly man, so much so that the Bible calls him “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1).

Satan slandered Job before God, saying that the only reason Job served God was because God had blessed him. God allowed Satan to put Job to the test. First, Satan slew all of Job’s children and destroyed all his wealth; though Job mourned, he did not blame God. Then God permitted Satan to afflict Job with painful boils all over his body so that the only relatively comfortable place Job could find to sit was on soft ashes.

Job wanted to die, and his wife told him how he could do it. If he would curse God, then God might go ahead and kill him and put him out of his misery (2:9–10). But that was the one thing Job refused to do. Job cursed the day of his birth, wishing he had never been born, but he did not curse God.

Job asked why life continues for “those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?” (3:21–22). The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard spoke of this as the most severe form of grief and sorrow that any human being ever experiences, what he called “sickness unto death.” It is the desire to die more than anything else in the world, but not to be allowed. At this point, Job had no reason to live. He had lost everything, including the support of his wife. But Job was not allowed to die. Suicide would be a sin, and he refused to curse God. It took all of his courage and integrity just to stay alive.

One thing that stands out about Job’s mourning is that it was real. He did not give off any pious platitudes. He uttered no phony “Praise the Lord’s.” Job’s piety was not artificial, and he was not too proud to grieve. He wept and groaned and cried out in his pain, but though he wrestled with God, he did not reject Him.

Read Job 3. There is an added dimension of suffering that can be seen here, which is that God did not personally come and comfort Job in his distress. Job felt abandoned by God, experiencing what the medieval Christians called “a dark night of the soul.” Have you ever had such an experience? What did you learn from it? Contemplate what might be learned from such an experience.