Groaning With Job 12


JobSldier

What seems evident in chapter 19 (Job’s 5th response to his friends) is that something has broken. The brevity of this response compared to those that came before signals something new.  He doesn’t fill this response with arguments, but instead turns almost entirely to lament.

It seems good to note then that there are times when trying to think through suffering must give way to simple grief. Perhaps we wait too long to get there at times. Maybe we try too hard to muster our strength and our self-respect instead of allowing ourselves to truly be crushed. It is counter-intuitive I know. We want to put on the brave face, to act as though it is all OK even though it is so overwhelming. We want to do it for our own sake – so that we do not fall off the precipice of utter despair.

But giving up trying to completely understand our suffering is not the same as giving up on God. Job sees this. He will weep over his state, and say again that he does not understand it, but here he stops working so hard at keeping it all together, and just folds in tears.

He reduces his reply to two basic concepts.

1 – 19:1-22/ Can’t you see what distress I am in? Don’t you see all that I have lost and how this has alienated me from every close relationship, and that I’m a physical wreck on top of it? Can’t you show me a little mercy in all of this? Why aren’t you as my friends pitying me instead of prosecuting me?

2 – 19:23-29 / Even though I have no way to describe what I’m going through except to liken it to God’s anger with me – the truth is – I am looking forward to the resurrection and standing before God. I don’t fear it. Things are right between us. No matter what, I will not utterly lose my trust in the ultimate goodness of God – no matter how unjust it all seems right now.

What a wail! What a plea! Begging from mercy from his closest friends and peers. We should think we would ever have to beg for mercy from those close to us – but such is the nature of some trials in life.

Richard Baxter, that saint of an earlier age spoke much to this part of suffering: “by the desertion and dissipation of his disciples, Christ would teach us whenever we are called to follow him in suffering, what to expect from the best of men: even to know that of themselves they are untrusty, and may fail us: and therefore not to look for too much assistance or encouragement from them. Paul lived in a time when Christians were more self-denying and steadfast than they are now. And Paul was one that might better expect to be faithfully accompanied in his sufferings for Christ, than any of us: and yet he saith, “At my first answer no one stood with me, but all men forsook me:” (2 Tim. 4:16:) and prayeth, that it be not laid to their charge. Thus you have seen some reasons why Christ consented to be left of all, and permitted his disciples to desert him in his sufferings.

Christians expect to be conformed to our Lord in this part of his humiliation also. Are your friends yet fast and friendly to you? For all that expect that many of them, at least, should prove less friendly: and promise not yourselves an unchanged constancy in them. Are they yet useful to you? Expect the time when they cannot help you. Are they your comforters and delight, and is their company much of your solace upon earth? Be ready for the time when they may become your sharpest scourges, and most heart-piercing griefs, or at least when you shall say, “We have no pleasure in them.” Have any of them, or all, already failed you? What wonder? Are they not men, and sinners? To whom were they ever so constant as not to fail them? Rebuke yourselves for your unwarrantable expectations from them: and learn hereafter to know what man is, and expect that friends should use you as followeth.

Some of them that you thought sincere, shall prove perhaps unfaithful and dissemblers, and upon fallings out, or matters of self-interest, may seek your ruin…Some will forsake God: what wonder then if they forsake you? “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt. 24:12.) Where pride and vain-glory, and sensuality and worldliness are unmortified at the heart, there is no trustiness in such persons: for their wealth, or honour, or fleshly interest, they will part with God and their salvation; much more with their best deserving friends. Why may not you, as well as Job, have occasion to complain, “He hath put my brethren far from me, and my acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in my house, and my maidens, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer: I entreated him with my mouth: my breath is strange to my wife; though I entreated for the childrens’ sake of my own body: yea, young children despised me: I arose, and they spake against me: all my inward friends abhorred me; and they whom I loved are turned against me.” (Job 19:13–19.)

Many a faithful minister of Christ hath studied, and preached, and prayed, and wept for their people’s souls, and after all have been taken for their enemies, and used as such; yea even because they have done so much for them. Like the patient, that being cured of a mortal sickness, sued his physician at law for making him sick with the physic…

Thus may ingratitude afflict you, and kindness, be requited with unkindness, and the greatest benefits be forgotten, and requited with the greatest wrongs. Your old familiars may be your foes; and you may be put to say as Jeremy, “For I heard the defaming of many: fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.” (Jer. 20:10.) Thus must the servants of Christ be used, in conformity to their suffer[1]

And what wonder it is for us to cling to, that our Christ is one who sticks closer than any friend, than any brother or spouse or parent or child that ever was. Job can know of a certainty that in it all – he will one day still stand with his true “Friend”, his Savior – as all who are His will – regardless of this life’s sorrows. What a Savior!

 

 

 

[1] Richard Baxter, William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (vol. 13; London: James Duncan, 1830), 287–290.

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