Sunday, March 12, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 8, Job Answers Eliphaz, Part 1

Job's friend Eliphaz finds it offensive that Job has dared to curse the day of his birth and complain about his circumstances. It's easy (but wrong) for Eliphaz to judge Job's attitude because he cannot possibly understand Job's feelings. Job wishes he could somehow show Eliphaz just how deep his pain is, "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.'" (Job 6:1-3)

Job says, "Maybe I did go too far with what I said, but this grief has overwhelmed me. How can a man think straight when he feels like this?" Eliphaz has done something that most or all of us have done. He has looked at Job's situation and felt he would handle it in a different way. The truth is that none of us can know how we would react to anything until it happens to us.

"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?" (Job 6:4-5) Job knows Eliphaz and his other friends may be shocked by some of the things he has said, but they need to put themselves in his shoes. Livestock are content when their needs are provided, and it's only when they are suffering lack that they cry out. This is the condition in which Job finds himself. Up til now all his needs and many of his wants in life have been satisfied. But now all that he cherished has been taken away, how can he help but cry out?

"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." (Job 6:6-7) Some translations render "sap of the mallow" as "white of an egg", but the words Job uses in the original text are not clear. We know only that he speaks of something completely tasteless, so tasteless that it's disgusting to eat. Life for Job has become tasteless and intolerable. He's disgusted with it and he wants no more of it.

"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?" (Job 6:8-13) Job believes he would be better off dead. He is not willing to take his own life; he leaves the number of his days up to the Creator. But he wishes the Lord would put an end to this misery. At least then he would receive his reward in heaven for having remained faithful. But he can't picture anything good happening to him in this world. His children are gone and they are not coming back. His servants and his livestock are gone and are not coming back. His wife, the person closest to him, is suffering a crisis of faith and has not been able to strengthen him spiritually. His three best friends, instead of encouraging him, think he is a sinner and has brought this on himself. Job looks into the future and envisions nothing but more pain.

Job is in despair. He has lost hope. He's reached the point that he can't even imagine things getting better. I've only felt that hopeless once in my life, so far anyway. When I was in my twenties I suddenly came down with a weird illness that inflamed every joint in my body. It lingered for about a year altogether and I could never have imagined such pain from head to toe if it hadn't happened to me. There were days I was in so much pain that just to get out of bed and walk to the kitchen made tears spurt out of my eyes with every step. I saw five different doctors who couldn't give me any clear diagnosis or tell me for sure whether I would ever get better. I endured a great deal of testing for things that kept coming back negative, and all that the doctors could tell me was to keep taking my anti-inflammatory pills. As if the physical agony weren't enough, I was consumed with fear of the future because I didn't know if my condition would progress. What if I ended up unable to walk? Unable to work? What if I couldn't ever do any of the things I wanted to do? For the first time in my life I started having severe panic attacks. I felt like I was down in a deep hole and would never get out. During those dark hours I lost all hope. I couldn't imagine ever feeling better. I never considered taking my own life but I could understand what drives people to do it. I felt I was under spiritual attack, that Satan had decided to kick me while I was down, and this is probably how he incites people to take their own lives. He just keeps kicking them til they give up all hope. Job says he has given up hope and I wouldn't be surprised to know that Satan wants him to take his life. If Job repudiates the gift of life, in Satan's mind this is a slap in the face to the Giver of life. It may be the closest Satan can get Job to come to cursing God, but he's willing to settle for it. One less godly man in the world would suit Satan just fine.

I have a lot of sympathy for Job because I've felt hopeless too. I've felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, that there was nothing ahead but more misery. Satan only tells us these lies when we're weak enough to believe them. It's probably only because Job knew the word of God and believed God alone should have the power over life and death that the devil wasn't able to convince him to take his own life. I wouldn't have the right to judge Job if he had, but I'm thankful he didn't. He's an example to all of us when we feel like giving up. He left the day of his death up to the God who created him. Because a man like Job who suffered the loss of so much was able to persevere under trial and remain faithful to God, we know we can too.

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