Job shows us how we may respond to suffering
[May 30, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
“For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put out branches like a young plant. (Job 14:7-9)
Job’s desperate lament to God is unspeakably beautiful and moving for those who have ever felt like they would rather be dead than have to endure the pain and grief they are suffering.
Job is a model for us is so many ways. He shows us how we may express the fullness of our aching hearts to God:
“I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God, Do not condemn me;
let me know why you contend against me.
Does it seem good to you to oppress,
to despise the work of your hands
and favor the designs of the wicked?
Have you eyes of flesh?
Do you see as man sees?
Are your days as the days of man,
or your years as a man’s years,
that you seek out my iniquity
and search for my sin,
although you know that I am not guilty,
and there is none to deliver out of your hand? (10:1-7)
And Job also shows us how we may reply to the counselors who oh-so-well-meaningly give us proverbs of ashes:
“He who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed,
as torrential streams that pass away,
which are dark with ice,
and where the snow hides itself.
When they melt, they disappear;
when it is hot, they vanish from their place….
For you have now become nothing;
you see my calamity and are afraid. . . .
“Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone astray.
How forceful are upright words!
But what does reproof from you reprove?
Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?
You would even cast lots over the fatherless,
and bargain over your friend.
“But now, be pleased to look at me,
for I will not lie to your face.
Please turn; let no injustice be done.
Turn now; my vindication is at stake.
Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity? (6:14-17, 21, 24-30)
And this is my favorite:
“Behold, my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it.
What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
But I would speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to argue my case with God.
As for you, you whitewash with lies;
worthless physicians are you all.
Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!
Hear now my argument
and listen to the pleadings of my lips.
Will you speak falsely for God
and speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality toward him?
Will you plead the case for God?
Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.
Will not his majesty terrify you,
and the dread of him fall upon you?
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay. (13:1-12)
[May 30, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to May 30, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to May 30, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to May 30, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (May 30, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]