Chapter 7 (ESV) - Has not man a hard service on earth,
and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like a hired hand who looks for his wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing till the dawn.
My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
and come to their end without hope.
Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more;
while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone.
As the cloud fades and vanishes,
so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up;
he returns no more to his house,
nor does his place know him anymore.
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
that you set a guard over me?
When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint,’
then you scare me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
so that I would choose strangling
and death rather than my bones.
I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
What is man, that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
visit him every morning
and test him every moment?
How long will you not look away from me,
nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me your mark?
Why have I become a burden to you?
Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.
Question to consider: Would you endure suffering if it meant saving someone else from harm? Why or why not?
In today’s passage, Job turned from his response to Eliphaz and directed his comments to the Lord. He compared his suffering to hard labor, but unlike the laborer who longs for the end of the day to receive his wages, Job spent his nights in misery and received no wage for his suffering.
I think everyone can relate to the idea of a long night of tossing and turning because you can’t get comfortable. This was Job’s experience every night because of sores that would begin to heal and then break open again due to some kind of horrific infection. When he said that his “days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle”, he was not talking in the sense of them moving quickly like they would on a vacation. He meant that his time here on earth was quickly coming to an end. He believed he would spend the short time he had left in misery. Given his hopeless and final state, he was not going to hold back from God the anguish he felt down to his very soul.
The sea and sea monsters were a symbol of all that opposed God. Job was asking God whether he had done something so egregious that it deserved such horror. For even during the moments he found a bit of rest, he was beset with nightmares. As the reader, we know that everything Job was experiencing was a dreadful onslaught from Satan trying to get Job to curse God.
From Job’s perspective, he was just a tiny speck of dust on a blue marble in a universe too vast to comprehend. What possible reason would there be to torture someone this insignificant every moment so that he longed for death? In the time it took to swallow, he would suffer some new horror, and he just wanted to know what sin he committed to be marked for this kind of suffering, and why God would not forgive him for it.
This personal question of why we suffer is common to everyone who has experienced suffering. The simple and unsatisfying answer is “sin”. The moment Adam and Eve rebelled against God and tried to do what was right in their own eyes, the world was cursed with pain, suffering and death. Rather than giving us a personal explanation that we could not possibly understand, God gave us His Son who knew no sin to bear our sin and to suffer so that we might become the righteousness of God. As I wrote back in chapter 3, we should consider what Isaiah said of Christ six hundred years before His incarnation, “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11)
Our time here on earth is temporary, and though I deeply hurt for everyone who experiences suffering in this world, I can assure you that all who suffer for the sake of Christ do not do so in vain. When all of this has passed, and we are with the Lord, we will look back on what God has accomplished through it and be satisfied.
Dear heavenly Father, we ask for Your comfort and peace in the midst of our pain and suffering. Thank You for patiently listening to our cries of frustration. Please help us to give these things to You so they do not become seeds of bitterness in our hearts, and help us to be Your hand of comfort to others. Amen.