Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Job 3.1: Why we hurt

[Note: My appologies if the title numbers don't make sense. I just thought it would be useful to key them off the chapters, though I then forgot in chapter two and this one actually spanned inconveniently over chapter lines. So don't worry the numbers shouldn't imply something is missing.]

Job 2:11 Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

Now enters three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. We tend to remember these three with ill repute because of how the story ends, but I think in all fairness that again these men are better and are given much disservice.

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Rom 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

It was one of the marks of the Messiah that he would comfort those who mourn. Notice the special attention to our pain, "...bind up the brokenhearted...to comfort all that mourn...to appoint them that mourn...joy for mourning...praise for the spirit of heaviness." The Messiah was foretold to be concerned without hurt and we as believers are likewise instructed to weep with those who weep. So in this regards these three friends are indeed friends.

Let us look at these men with an open mind and heart. The first man is Eliphaz which means “my God is (fine) gold.” And he is a Temanite, meaning of Teman meaning “southward.” Eliphaz who was a son of Esau was the father of Teman. The larger family of the Temanites would be the Edomites.

The next is Bildad meaning “confusing (by mingling) love.” He comes from the Shuhite people of Shuah meaning “wealth.” The one in scripture named Shuah was a son of Abraham by his wife Keturah, another was a Caananite man who was father of a woman that Judah married.

Lastly is Zophar meaning “sparrow,” coming from a tsaphar meaning to skip about, return or depart early, you might imagine how this applies to a bird that flits about from here to there. From Naamathites from Naamah “pleasantness.”

So here are three friends who when they hear of Job’s trouble immediately get together and go to see Job because they had made an appointment to do so.

Job 2:12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

They come to his place, they see him afar off, but even though they know it’s him they can’t recognize him. From what we’ve seen before now, I’m sure that Job was a very joyful fellow. How could he not be when he’s content and upright, fearing God, and recoiling from evil? But now he is having evil rained down on him from God, and he’s been blessing God despite it all out of reflexive worship and now we see from others looking in that he no longer looks like the man he was. Since we’ve seen up until now that he has not been heeding his wife’s advice, it would seem that his not acknowledging the hurt in his life is causing his physical condition to deteriorate to the point that he is not recognizable—which again reinforces the truth of his wife’s warning.

Despite his best efforts to mask his hurt behind blessing, his friends see at first glance, that his suffering is very great. So they do what good friends should do, they sit and mourn with him for seven days waiting for him to speak. The conclusion of this is that bottling up our pain in what we think is praise, only keeps the pain from escaping. It doesn’t protect a person, it protects their suffering and as Job’s wife says: It will kill you.

Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

Despite his resistance to his wife’s warning, we see that in fact he does start to listen. After his wife’s words and his friends show up to mourn with him, he finally begins to voice what he is actually feeling.

Job 3:2 And Job spake, and said,
3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.

This is the pain of a righteous man. Though he knows that God has sent this evil, he does not speak against him, rather instead he just voices his wish that he had never existed. Never been born, never conceived, and that neither of those days would be noticed by God. In essence he’s saying “I wish God would not have taken notice of me at all because look what happens?” It is better to die or be nothing, than to live in this God ordained suffering.

Job 3:7 Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.
8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.

Let there be no joy in that day, and he calls those that curse the day to curse it. Who are those that curse the day? Not those who are ready to raise up their mourning, but according to the Hebrew “who are ready to awaken Leviathan.” Well who is ready to wake Leviathan?

Job 41:9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?

God speaking in later chapters accounts Leviathan’s fierceness so high that he says none will stir him. So who really curses the day? The suicidal; those who long for death.

Job 3:9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:
10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

Just blot it out he’s saying, literally “let it see not an eyelash of the dawn”, because it didn’t hide suffering from him.

Thinking about this, it really makes me think of It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey has much in common with Job when he speaks to the angel Clarence and declares how it would be better if he’d never been born. I can’t say that I’ve ever known such suffering that I wanted to never be born, or even to die. I think it must be very important then to God that we understand that he is not ignorant of this grief.

2Ki 20:5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.

God is moved by our tears.

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

God moves to treat our grief, our broken hearts.

Psa 56:1 Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.
2 Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.
3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
7 Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.
8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
9 When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.
10 In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word.
11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
12 Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.
13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

David trusted God that his tears did not fall uncounted, that there is a record with God of each of them. How wonderful is that? What God is nearer than the one that records our every tear? What God is there among all the gods that cares so much for his creation and heres the cry of his servants?

Isa 25:8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

The promise of the end of days. Along with ending death forever, “the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off ALL faces…for the LORD hath spoken.”

This long recording of Job’s anguished words could have been summed up in “his grief was very great.” Or it could have been abridged—Job suffered; he complained; God rebuked him; he repented; God gives him back his stuff. That’s not an accurate representation, but it’s close to the common view. But God, through the writer, does not abridge or lessen it’s impact. As we’ve seen, God is in control in all things good and evil. That means that everything happens for a reason, not to infringe or even discuss freewill, but the events that trigger our choices are controlled. Even if God doesn’t make it happen, he is responsible with the final go/no-go authority. So then we know for certain that God wanted us to see this record of Job’s words. He wanted us to see this struggle. He wanted us to see him hurt so bad that he hated his very conception.

We, especially in the body of Messiah, have a tendency to shun grieved speech. Making those who mourn, those who hurt feel less spiritual because they hurt. As if they should be happy when they hurt, but this is our limitation not God’s. God stands waiting for our honesty, and welcomes it. How much real healing would take place in the body, if instead of out-casting the grief of our brothers and sisters, we just sat and cried with them? It’s a hard thing to do because we want to fix it, to make them better so we come up with things from scripture about hope and sunshine—that are all true—but we fail to realize those things come with process.

Job 3:11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:
16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.

He wishes that the day of his birth was utterly forgotten, and that he had died on that forgotten day because at least then he would have peace and he would have been the same as any king or prince. Again the message, death is better than anguish.

Job 3:17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.

In death, no one can trouble anyone. There is rest for the persecuted (like Job which means persecuted). Everyone is the same in death, and every servant is freed. We might tend to think of him as being overwhelmed in his grief, but what has he said that is not true?

Psa 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Joh 11:11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

For those who die in trust towards God, death is all of those things. Yeshua himself characterizes it as rest.

Psa 73:24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Death for those who trust in God is welcome relief out of trouble. On a bad day, when you’re feeling the weight of a sinful world don’t you long for death? You might sanitize it by saying you look forward to Heaven, but the meaning is the same. Unless our Lord returns in your lifetime the only way you will see a redeemed existence is through death. Stepping through the “doorway cut in sod.” And if you say this isn’t true then why not? If you could be free right now of all pain and weariness at the expense of your innocent death—one that God put his blessing on—wouldn’t you want it?

Now, just so we’re clear. I am not advocating suicide. One might ask “then why are you making death sound like an escape? You’re going to make people want to kill themselves!” This argument is like saying “don’t read Genesis because you’ll imagine naked people.” People who are suicidal are not suicidal because they have too strong a grasp on the situation. They’re suicidal because they’ve lost sight or never had sight of hope. And hope is not some fanciful feeling (or rather not just a fanciful feeling), it is strong belief in good and certain outcome. That belief is not based on ignorance, but on the promises of God. If a person is considering suicide, it’s not because they have too much truth it’s because they don’t have enough.

Continuing on…

Job 3:20 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;
21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?

Job spends 19 verses lamenting his situation and wishing for forgetfulness/darkness and now in verse 20 he gets to the real question on his heart. Why is light (by analogy remembrance and notice) given to those in misery? Why do we live if we are to hurt? If we know this rest and equality lies beyond the grave, why do we suffer instead of being allowed to die? Remember that this is poignantly true as God has commanded that his life be guarded.

Why does this happen to a man that is fenced in by God? This is interesting and telling, that though Job has now turned to venting his pain and cursing, he still recognizes that God had protected him. So he asks especially why is this happening to a man that God has protected until now?

As we’ll begin to see, this question is a major if not the most major point of contention and suffering for Job. Though suffering is by nature unpleasant, isn’t it a much easier thing to bear when we know the cause? If money just disappears from our bank account aren’t we more distressed than later when we find out it was some bill that we had previously agreed to? If someone hurts you for no apparent reason isn’t the distress lessened by knowing that that person had a really bad day? If you’re ill and you have no idea why you are ill isn’t it worse than knowing you were made ill by some bad food?

There is something intrinsically relieving about knowing the reason behind something that makes us seek it even if it will not change our circumstances. For myself, I find that I can become bitter towards a person when I correctly or incorrectly perceive that I have been disrespected. I wrestle with this anger inside, and no matter how I much I try to forgive the other person, I just can’t seem to master the anger. Yet, after awhile I often find that I was being unreasonable and in the same place I might have done the same thing, and when I realize that the problem is in fact with me…then I can let go of my anger. In fact I find that the anger I cling to the hardest is in fact what is actually aimed at me.

My point is that our emotions are rooted in our perception or lack of perception of the truth. Think of a person whom you had long disdained only to find that getting to know them, you didn’t dislike them all the much? Or think about someone that perhaps months ago you loved fervently, but for some hurt that passed between, you lost your love for them. It may stay dormant, but then something reminds you of some genuine blessing, some genuine happiness, that was shared with them because of them; and suddenly, at least for a moment, you remember your love?

The message of Job’s wife to him was that if he kept denying his pain, it would kill him. The emotions cannot be resolved if they’re roots are never pulled up to exposure. I have at times held many views on emotion that evolved over time. Firstly, was that they were really more of a nuisance that got in the way of clear decisions of right and wrong. Then, I realized that God gave us emotions, for enjoyment and for passion, in other words fuels to aid decisions we had already made.

But the roots were always the decisions and emotions were just the pretty flowers. A classic example in my life has been the idea of love. The world sees it as an emotion. The body of Messiah teaches that it is an act of will. I say that they are both only half right.

We live fragmented lives where our emotions wage war against our reasoning and without spirits. And our reasoning against the others and our spirits against them both. What God wants, and what I believe Job is teaching here, is that we were not meant to be so. Our emotions whether love, hate, anger, fear, compassion, joy…they are all meant to run in tandem, united with our other parts. A flower’s beauty if separated from it’s roots will not survive. A musical piece is more than striking notes; would it have any significance to strike the right keys if you could not hear (or in Beethoven’s latter state, imagine) the sounds? What good is the feeling of love without the truth of actually being self-less, kind, patient and all else that is the will of love? God doesn’t want us to deny our hearts, he wants them to beat in time with his.

Job’s problem is much the same, he keeps trying to separate his feelings from his actions, and he does this on the basis that he does not have the truth he needs to reconcile them. So he finally asks the question: Why am I hurting when I was under your protection? And if I am to hurt, why won’t you just let me die?

Job 3:24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
Job 3:25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
Job 3:26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

He can’t even eat without remembering his grief because what he feared has come. Interesting that even a man so protected and blessed, was afraid of losing it all. This speaks back to Job’s previous problem of reflexive worship. He chided his wife who in his mind could not receive both good and evil from the Lord, but the truth is he had greatly feared it.

Lastly, he questions God’s actions more specifically. Before it was why do people suffer when they have been under his protection, now why do I suffer when I was not at ease or rest? We can see he is slowly tearing back the cloud of what he has thought righteousness and worship was, to address the feelings inside. Why because he needs the truth to reconcile what he believes (that God is to always be blessed) and what he feels in his heart (pain for undeserved persecution).

The message is not that we should not praise God in everything, but that is not the whole of God’s concern with us. He doesn’t just want our praise, he wants to bind our broken hearts. In a universe of a billion billion stars and countless wonders of creation, he stoops to treat our pain. But he doesn’t do this by zapping our emotions, or telling us to ignore them as secondary, he works to heal them by reconciling them to his own because what really hurts our hearts is not circumstances but distance between us and himself.

The cross didn’t hurt Yeshua; sin did. How can we expect for our emotions to make sense when we don’t think and act in the image of the one who made us?

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