God has put an amazing system in our inner ears to give us a sense of balance. We often take this system for granted. Until it stops. One time is enough for me never to forget what vertigo feels like. The ceiling felt like it was spinning faster than a pinwheel. I would stand up, stumble, lie down, and start the cycle again. Finally, my wife bought some Dramamine that knocked me out until God graciously restored my sense of balance. I was left with serious compassion for those who regularly battle vertigo. Losing one’s bearings can be unnerving.
In Job 3, Job has lost his bearings. He goes from worshiping the Lord in chapter 2 to cursing his birth and wishing for death in chapter 3. What has happened, and what does such a bleak chapter have to teach us today?
Verses 1-19 pertain to Job’s own life. As I mentioned above, he curses the day of his birth and wishes he were dead. The chapter is poetic, and images of darkness fill the poem. Job no longer sees any point in his life.
A major shift happens at verse 20. Job applies the questions he has about his own life to all who suffer: “Why is light given to one burdened with grief, and life to those whose existence is bitter?” (CSB). When the pain of life outweighs joy, why does God allow people to remain? Why do people who want to die often not die?
Verses 24-26 conclude the poem with a return to the specifics of Job’s own life. He can’t eat. He can’t sleep, and he has no peace.
Has Job lost his faith? Job is not the only godly person who has felt this way. After great victories, Elijah failed to see the point of his life (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah also requested God to take his life away (Jonah 4:1-11). The closest parallel to Job is probably the prophet Jeremiah after experiencing immense resistance to his message (Jeremiah 15:10, 20:14-18). Like Job, Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth.
Some people think Christians should never feel the way Job feels in Job 3. Two options then present themselves to a person undergoing this type of trial. The first option is to think, “Since Christians don’t have these feelings, I’m not really having these feelings.” The second option is to think, “Since Christians don’t really have these feelings, I’m not really a Christian.”
Job 3 teaches us otherwise. Godly people sometimes lose their bearings. They sometimes have these thoughts and feel the way Job feels. That’s why it’s important to bring these thoughts and feelings to the Lord. It will not surprise Him; He’s the one who wrote the book!
Spending time with someone who’s going through the crisis of faith that Job was going through can itself be a trial. What would you say if you were with Job? What should you say? While we will not look at the responses of Job’s friends chapter by chapter, they responded poorly to his cries in chapter 3.
If you are with someone who speaks as Job speaks, don’t be put off by their language. Don’t scold them into speaking like a “real Christian” should. At the end of the book, the Lord says that Job’s friends were the ones to sin — not Job (Job 42:7-9). Job’s cries were those of lament. And if your faith has
no place for lament, Job 3 shows us that your faith is too small.
— Russell Freeman is dean of Curriculum and Instruction and Bible teacher at Greenville Classical Academy in Simpsonville.