Chapter 6:1-13 (ESV) - Then Job answered and said:
“Oh that my vexation were weighed,
and all my calamity laid in the balances!
For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
therefore my words have been rash.
For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass,
or the ox low over his fodder?
Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt,
or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?
My appetite refuses to touch them;
they are as food that is loathsome to me.
Oh that I might have my request,
and that God would fulfill my hope,
that it would please God to crush me,
that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
This would be my comfort;
I would even exult in pain unsparing,
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
What is my strength, that I should wait?
And what is my end, that I should be patient?
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?
Have I any help in me,
when resource is driven from me?
Question to consider: Why is it better to comfort someone in silence than to say the wrong thing?
In today’s passage, Job responded to Eliphaz who had summarily dismissed Job’s calamity as God’s discipline for some unnamed sin. He began by reiterating the depth of his anguish, for it must have been incredible to him that Eliphaz would speak in the manner he had unless it was out of ignorance to his ordeal. After all, sometimes people don’t realize how cutting and inappropriate their words are when they haven’t experienced something of the same magnitude. I’m socially awkward enough that it’s better for me to just sit quietly with someone who suffers. I’m not sure that I could even have looked at Job with all of his sores for fear that I would have revealed some revulsion or horror on my face.
Job admitted that his own words were rash. He hadn’t cursed God with them, but they were a reaction to what felt like being shot by God in the gut with poisonous arrows. His questions about the donkey and the ox were rhetorical. Obviously, a donkey would not bray and an ox would not low if they were well fed and at ease. Like them, he did not cry out without a good reason. Eliphaz’s words to him were like tasteless food that he was forced to eat without salt. He had no appetite for them, and they were loathsome to him.
As I wrote back in chapter 3, even though Job would not consider ending his own life, he was hopeful that God would let loose His hand with whatever other arrows were aimed at him and just finish him off. Death would be a comfort to him because he had faith in God. Like his grandfather (or great-grandfather), Abraham, Job “...believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Job recognized that he didn’t have the strength of stones or flesh that was hard as bronze. He didn’t have it in him to be patient and wait for whatever would come next. Instead his flesh was unbearable with the pain and itch of the sores, and he saw no future with all that he’d lost.
Intense pain and sorrow causes time to slow down to a crawl, and it can be almost impossible to imagine a hopeful future in the midst of it. This is why the calming presence of another person can be helpful in shifting someone’s focus away from their pain and why it is important that the other person doesn’t add to their burden. In this situation, silence can offer respite, and a listening ear can be a release of anguish.
Dear heavenly father, please give us a heart to empathize with others so that we can be a calming presence in times of difficulty. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit who is our strength in times of sorrow and the one who helps us fix our eyes on Christ and the resurrection that is to come. Amen.