Job 3:11-26 (ESV)
“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master.
“Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
Not surprisingly, Job is questioning why. But notice how he does this. He doesn’t ask, “Why me?” or, “Why this?” Instead he asks things like, “Why was I not as a hidden stillborn child?”
For some reason, he isn’t wondering just about the recent calamities; he’s thinking in terms of having his whole life erased. He longs for the rest of the grave. It’s as if he thinks the recent events are inevitably coupled with the rest of his life. Then he gets more specific. “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?”
Light here just means life. Job is asking, “Why create a life of misery? Why not just leave the whole thing out?”
This is the basic question of the book – the question that draws people to Job in the first place. It’s why folks say, “I don’t understand Job.”
For now, just note that Job has raised the question in a remarkably unselfish way. Despite his legendary misery, he’s asking about this in the abstract. He recognizes that this is a question about God’s agenda and he wondering how his life story could make sense.
While Job’s words are not a prayer – he’s just thinking out loud – it’s a useful model for prayer. “But isn’t he questioning God?”
Absolutely! He has questions. What’s he supposed to do, suppress them because God doesn’t like people to be good students? Great professors love hard questions.
Robot students are boring.
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