Calling a Spade a Spade
Okay, let’s consider Job’s first outburst some more. He should be commended because for seven days he was silent and showed great restraint. Never once did he sin by saying anything wrong. Then why in the world does he have to ruin everything by opening his big mouth and sticking his foot in it? I don’t care how much you try to sympathize with Job’s suffering, his expression of it now becomes so dark and shocking that we cannot help but ask, “what is really going on here?” Do we have to hold the whole chapter at arms length, chalk it up to the misguided ravings of a man who has essentially lost control of himself, a tortured mind gone haywire?
Well, think about that a moment. One of the most distinctive impressions we should have as we read the speeches of Job is that he is a man who has not gone haywire. He knows exactly what he is saying and means every word of it. True, at the end of the story, he will recant his strong language and “repent in dust and ashes,” but that will be given in entirely different circumstances. They come as the result of a direct encounter with the Lord. However, at the moment of his first statements, we see Job at one of his most grimmest points. During his trial, he never does teeter over the brink into madness, but instead faces his entire ordeal with eyes wide-open. Even when he is utterly broken, he somehow retains not only his faith but also his sanity.
We have no way of telling exactly how long his trials may have lasted. The events we have looked at so far comprised at the very least ten days, and probably closer to two or three weeks (although the suggestion of “months” in 7:3 may indicate a longer period). The rest of the book could have easily taken place over as short a period as a single afternoon. If that’s the case, we might be able to understand why Job, after a lengthy siege of silent agony, would have finally broken down and vented a one-day (or one-hour) outburst. Even Jesus was known to give way to apparent bouts of frustration, as when He complained about His poor scruffy band of stupid and incompetent disciples: “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17).
The fact is there’s a point at which any man simply throws in the towel. He doesn’t abandon his faith, necessarily; he just gets thoroughly sick and tired of trying to put a good face on things, when the things he is facing don’t have anything good about them. This is not sin; it is just plain honesty. It’s calling a spade a spade. Job is a forthright and plainspoken man, the sort of person who isn’t afraid to say what is on his heart. At the very beginning of the conversation with his friends, we have to admit that such uncommon honesty may be one of the greatest virtues a believer can possess.
The third chapter of Job seems to be one of the most depressing chapters in the entire Bible—even more so than Psalm 88, which after eighteen dark and depressing verses ends abruptly with the line, “Darkness is my closest friend.” It seems obvious the Psalmist reaches the end of his prayer without receiving any answer, without so much as a crumb of comfort. Yet for this reason, there can be a strange comfort in reading of this psalm in times of deep trouble. It is good to be reminded that such a black outpouring really is Scriptural, that prayer doesn’t have to be upbeat and optimistic all the time. The true believer doesn’t always rise from his knees full of encouragement and fresh hope. There are times when you may remain down in the dumps and yet still have prayed well. What God wants from us isn’t the observance of religious protocol, but just that we are real with Him. What He wants is our heart.
When we are in our times of trials and suffering, we need people who will keep us in their prayers. But we also need to be patient, we need to persevere, we need to let God teach us. The Lord fully knows what our needs are. We need to let the process teach us more important things like waiting on God, trusting Him, being content in whatever state we are in, let this time of suffering develop your compassion, and all the deeper more valuable things than a life of leisure.
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
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