|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
Meditation No. 16
Meditation Title: Fruits of Anguish
Job 6:1-3 Then Job replied: "If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas
Eliphaz has come to the end of his first speech and it is left to Job to make a comment. He doesn't initially make any reply but just reiterates what he feels about his state. Understand that a person in this sort of anguish can't focus on anything other than the pain they are suffering. Foolishly I used to think that going into hospital must be a good opportunity to rest up and read and seek God. However, I've learnt that sick people aren't in any state to feel anything other than their pain or anguish. If you haven't been there, keep quiet, don't make any rash comments. In sickness, pain and anguish you are in no state to seek God; perhaps that is why so much of Jesus' ministry was about healing people. In the past I have experienced back pain or tooth-ache and just didn't know where to put myself. In the back pain I did learn to call out to the Lord, but the tooth ache was so bad you could hardly do that. Pain does do its work in our sanctification and part of that may just be to realise He IS with you, but never romanticise it for it goes against everything our bodies tell us.
Job focuses on his anguish. He imagines his anguish being weighed and says it is so great it would outweigh the sand of every beach in the world. A powerful picture to convey it, but that's what he feels. But look what he next says: no wonder my words have been impetuous. (v.3b) Wow! There is self-knowledge here in the midst of his anguish. He realises that he is being hasty in the way he has spoken but that is what extreme anguish does for you! It is not an excuse but a reason why he has spoken as he has. Then he continues, The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God's terrors are marshalled against me. (v.4) He attributes what is happening to the Lord, for the Lord is sovereign so it must ultimately be down to Him. He is not railing against God when he says this; it is just a statement of fact. What has happened to him operates like poison in him and pulls him down so that he feels afraid.
He uses a further analogy to describe what is happening: Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass, or an ox bellow when it has fodder? (v.5). What is he saying? He says that animals don't make plaintive sounds when they are well fed, the implication being that they do when they are in lack. He is suggesting that it is natural to cry out in distress when you are suffering like he is. Even those with testimonies of receiving God's grace when they have suffered terrible injuries also testify that initially they cried out in anguish, Why me? Why me, God? It is natural to go through that phase.
He continues: Is tasteless food eaten without salt, or is there flavour in the white of an egg? I refuse to touch it; such food makes me ill. (v.6,7) Look, he says, you don't receive and eat tasteless or unpleasant food without some flavouring added. The implication is that the words of his first friend have been like tasteless food unpalatable. There may have been truth there but there was no grace to make it easier to take.
Then he returns to what he has said in chapter 3: Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off! (v.8,9) He doesn't want to argue; he just wishes God would end it by taking him off this planet. That's how desperate he is feeling. Never under-estimate how bad someone in this position is feeling. But then he reveals a fear of what could happen through this trial: Then I would still have this consolation-- my joy in unrelenting pain-- that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. (v.10). If the Lord took him then, even in the pain, he would have joy in knowing that he had not denied his Lord. That is the fear that he has, that somehow in the impetuous' words (v.3b above) he might deny the Lord. He would rather die than that. Wow! How many of us could say that? He realises that in his pain and anguish he is weak and vulnerable and in that weakness and in that vulnerability he could speak wrongly about God, and he doesn't want to do that.
We see in this an uncomfortable truth, that very often it takes trying circumstances to bring out of us the truth of what we are really like or, to put it the other way round, we are revealed as we truly are only through the pressure of bad circumstances. At the time of Jesus' trial the disciples (and we'd probably have been the same) revealed their immaturity in the way they didn't cope with his arrest, trial and execution. How different were their reactions later in life when, taught, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, ten of the remaining twelve' gave their lives for their Lord. We're all going to die one day; can we come to a place where the way we die glorifies our Lord?
There is some more to come that reveals Job's self-knowledge: What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? (v.11). He would love to be able to stand strongly for his Lord but he is aware that he has no strength and so seems to have no hope of enduring gracefully, and having no hope it seems he has no motivation to be patient to wait for God's deliverance. He is aware of his weakness and his need of help if he is to stand, but he questions whether he can, which is why he wants God to end it and take him soon. He expands on this: Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me? (v.12,13). He realistically looks at himself and says, I'm not stone, I'm not metal, I'm just flesh and blood, feeling utterly powerless, because all that I knew and got my strength from has been taken. I am now nothing. There is here a realization within him of his natural helplessness; he's been brought to the end of himself. He faces death and relishes it. That's what it's like in such circumstances and it can only be God who brings resurrection life and hope.
If we are comforters, realise that hope only comes when God makes His presence known in the face of such terrible circumstances. We can speak the words, we can recite the Scriptures, but in the face of death, hope this side of the grave is almost entirely absent until the Lord speaks and comes. We can counsel people, speak words of encouragement to people but, ultimately, they need a touch or a word from the Lord. Our role is simply to be channels of that contact.