Scripture to meditate on:
“Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
A person’s days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.
So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.
“At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
But a man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.
“If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!
If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.
“But as a mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,
as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy a person’s hope.
You overpower them once for all, and they are gone;
you change their countenance and send them away.
If their children are honored, they do not know it;
if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it.
They feel but the pain of their own bodies
and mourn only for themselves.” – Job 14
Thankfully, most of us will never experience the suffering of Job. Nevertheless all of us will experience pain and hardship. That’s just part of the human condition this side of Heaven.
In our reading today, Job asks the question we might all well ask; Why? Why is life short and troubled? Why is death the inevitable end of life?
For the answer to this question we must return to the early chapters of Genesis and witness the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this story, the primal couple, and by extension the rest of us, attempt to replace God’s sovereignty with their own. Just as Adam and Eve ate from the tree of good and evil, we are also guilty of trying to define our own moral standards. This is the birth of sin that ultimately leads to death. This is also part of the human condition.
So why is Job suffering? Because of sin.
But isn’t that what his friends have been telling him all along? Not exactly.
The book of Job makes it very clear that Job is “innocent and virtuous, fearing God and turning away from sin” (1:1 and elsewhere). We lose our way in this discussion if we ever forget that Job is not personally responsible for his suffering.
On the other hand, the Apostle Paul makes clear, there would be no suffering and death apart from sin. (Please take a moment to read Romans 5:12 – 21 to better understand this concept.)
What the story of Job is attempting to dislodge is the idea that suffering and pain are the direct result of our own personal sin. If we are able to grasp the message in this difficult book it should develop in us greater compassion for the poor, sick or depressed by teaching us that the question “what did they do to deserve this?” is unwarranted.
“Surely then you will count my steps, but not keep track of my sin.” – Job 14:16
Questions to ponder:
- Why do you think God allows suffering?
- What do you think God would like to say to you about your specific challenges?