Job has finally reached his limit. Satan has struck his body with sores from head to toe, and he has been reduced to scraping his sores with a potsherd. Finally, he is faced with a fork in the road: continue to worship faithfully and without question, or question the suffering and God. Job chooses to question not only suffering, but his whole life. His friend suggests his suffering is God’s punishment for sin, which was a common belief in his day. Job rejects this explanation, instead turning his anger to creation itself – the creation of his own life, and also God’s greater creation. He brings in the language of creation from Genesis and spins it so that, instead of a blessing that creates life, it is a curse and a plea to end life.
Job’s response to this new crisis is understandable. People can often withstand a certain amount of suffering, but we were not designed to withstand ongoing, relentless suffering. Everyone will reach a breaking point eventually. Is there a right way to a wrong way to respond? Or can we be given permission to respond in whatever way we must in order to process, and then move through our grief? For Job, he was certain of one thing – he had not caused his own suffering. Now he has to decide how he will go on. Angry? Yes. Hurt? Yes. Isolated? Yes. All of these and more will be necessary before he would come to the end of his suffering. How might we be with people, no matter how they are responding to their own life crises?
Job 3:1-10; 4:1-9; 7:11-21
After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job said: “Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, or light shine on it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it. Let those curse it who curse the Sea, those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning—because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, and hide trouble from my eyes.
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking? See, you have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
“Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.
What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”