Job chapter 1 set the stage for this amazing account. The righteous and prosperous Job has lost everything. His flocks, his 10 children, and upon further interaction between Satan and God (Ch. 2) – now his health is severely attacked. One cannot read those passages with feeling the enormity of his grief.
But the grief of his losses themselves, are nothing compared to what they generate internally. Without answers, Job (like us) is left with no “ease”. He remains uneasy if you will. He cannot rest. Nor can he be quiet. The heart and mind are in constant upheaval. He cannot give himself a moments rest but that all this trouble rushes in upon him over and over like unpredictable waves. Grief is a heavy load. That it is even recorded for us here in this way, is proof that our God knows what it is we suffer. He is so good.
And then Job’s three friends arrive. Make no mistake, these men really were his friends. They were not enemies in disguise. This is what makes the painful discussions which follow all the more difficult for Job. He knows these men. They fellowshipped together and served God together. They are not coming to hurt him, they love him and want to help him. But in their failure to understand the real situation, and in their very narrowly constructed theology – they end up pummeling him with their words like a thousand sledgehammers. It is unbearable to read in places. How much more it must have been unbearable to Job in the process.
One’s mind reflects back on the circumstances of Horatio Spafford – the author of “It Is Well With My Soul”. The fuller story in Spafford’s case carries much of Job’s sorrow with it.
Born Troy NY in October of 1828, Horatio became a very successful lawyer in Chicago. He married Anna, and their only son died at the age of 4 in 1870. Next, he lost most of his investments in the Chicago fire of 1871. Close friends of D. L. Moody and needing a break – he decides on a family vacation in Europe and to meet up with Moody while he was preaching there. Delayed by business, he sent his wife and 4 daughters on ahead of him: eleven-year-old Anna “Annie”, nine-year-old Margaret Lee, five-year-old Elizabeth “Bessie”, and two-year-old Tanetta. As most of us know, the ship was struck by another and sunk in Nov. 1873. 226 died including Spafford’s 4 daughters. His wife Anna sent a simple, devastating wire: “Saved alone”. Later, sailing over the spot of their shipwreck Spafford pens the now famous lyrics to “It Is Well.”
But it didn’t end there. The Spaffords went on to have 3 more children. Of those 3, their 2nd son dies at age four of scarlet fever. And it is then, as though this much grief is too much to be borne, their church, just like Job’s 3 friends, declares to them they must be suffering under some sort of divine judgment – and they are asked to leave lest this infect the whole church. They do leave, moving to Jerusalem to set up humanitarian works. And only a few years later, Horatio dies at 60 of malaria.
It is any wonder then that Job’s opening lament in chapter 3 can be summarized in very few words? Read the chapter, and you will no doubt come away with this brief, anguished cry:
“I wish I had never been born. Life is pain.”
Job was not the first to have been there, and certainly not the last. And if this where were the account ended, we would be at a total loss. But it is not. God will still be seen in His glory. And our dear friend Job will come to live life again – because of the faithful love of our Living God.