Job’s First Response
Scripture to meditate on:
Then Job replied:
“If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.
The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God’s terrors are marshaled against me.
Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?
I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.
“Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut off my life!
Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.
“What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?
Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?
Do I have any power to help myself,
now that success has been driven from me?
“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
but that stop flowing in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go off into the wasteland and perish.
The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.
They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.
Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid.
Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf,
pay a ransom for me from your wealth,
deliver me from the hand of the enemy,
rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’?
“Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.
How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?
Do you mean to correct what I say,
and treat my desperate words as wind?
You would even cast lots for the fatherless
and barter away your friend.
“But now be so kind as to look at me.
Would I lie to your face?
Relent, do not be unjust;
reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
Is there any wickedness on my lips?
Can my mouth not discern malice? – Job 6
This is no light reading. Job is heavy of heart, his spirit is crushed, he believes that God is unfairly punishing him and he wants to die.
It’s difficult to read Job’s words but it’s worth noting the substance of them. First, although he has begun to think of his personal tragedy in light of God’s activity, he has not yet brought this tragedy -to- God. As Job cries out, he is not seeking healing from God, but pleading for destruction.
Near the end of this chapter Job appeals to his friends for genuine help. In his desperation he says to them essentially “if you have something that can really help me, I am willing to listen.” But he quickly adds “so far you are way off target, with your counsel.”
Once again, Job’s suffering is not only an opportunity for us to struggle with the big theological question of “why do the innocent suffer” but the more pragmatic work of learning to be a good friend when the suffering comes.
“O that God might resolve to crush me, that he might let loose his hand and cut me off.” – Job 6:9
Questions to ponder:
- How have you been able to comfort a hurting friend?
- What do you most long to hear when you are suffering?
- Why do you think God allows such intense suffering?