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By all accounts, Job is a tough book to read. Its poetry is sometimes quite dense. And the subject matter itself is unpleasant: unexplained, deep and long term suffering. Many a reader chooses not to wade all the way through it. It’s harrowing. And the repetition – which perfectly mimics the way we turn unanswered questions over and over in our minds when suffering – make us uncomfortable. We find ourselves crying out with Job: “when will it end?” But there are great riches in the dark mines of Job.
I’m Reid Ferguson, and we’ll talk about that a bit today on Through the Word in 2020.
I am grateful that 2 of our passages today 2 Timothy 1:1–2 and Luke 11:33–36 are brief, in that tackling Job 3–8 is a lot.
But let’s go back and set the stage from Ch. 1, where we are introduced to the righteous and prosperous Job. Then – devastating loss. His flocks, his 10 children, and even his health is severely attacked. One cannot read those passages without feeling the enormity of his grief.
But the grief of his losses are nothing compared to what they generate internally. Without answers, Job (like us) is left with no “ease”. He remains uneasy. He cannot rest. Nor can he be quiet. His heart and mind are in constant upheaval. All this trouble rushes in upon him over and over like gigantic, random 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.
Then Job’s three friends arrive. Make no mistake, these men really were his friends. They were not enemies in disguise. It’s what makes the painful discussions which follow all the more difficult for Job. He knows these men. They fellowshipped 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.
One’s mind reflects back on the circumstances of Horatio Spafford – the author of “It Is Well With My Soul”.
Born Troy NY in 1828, Horatio became a successful lawyer. He marries Anna, only to have their first son die at the age of 4. The next year, he lost most of his investments in the Chicago fire. Friends of D. L. Moody and needing a break – he decides on a family vacation to 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 “Annie”, Margaret Lee 9, five-year-old “Bessie”, and Tanetta, 2. However, their 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 that 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, their 2nd son dies at the age four. Then, as though this much grief is just too much, their church, like Job’s 3 friends, declares they must be suffering under some sort of divine judgment – and they are asked to leave lest this infect them all. They leave, moving to Jerusalem to set up humanitarian works. And only a few years later, Horatio dies at 60 of malaria.
Is it any wonder then that Job’s opening lament in chapter 3 can be summarized in very few words? It is a 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.
And you my suffering friend in Christ – will too.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.