Job’s First Lament

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” (vv. 25–26).

- Job 3

Chapter 2 of Job ends with the arrival of Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who join him in mourning (vv. 11–13). This display of solidarity with their friend is commendable, but as we will see, these men ultimately end up kicking him while he is down, misunderstanding the reasons for Job’s suffering. Before they begin to opine on why Job is in so much pain, however, Job utters his first major speech in the book that bears his name.

Even people of great faith may reach the depths of despair, and that is among the chief lessons that we learn from today’s passage. Job has already refused to curse God for his predicament, saying instead that he must bow to the Lord’s sovereign right to bring both joy and suffering into the lives of His servants (1:20–21; 2:10). It is noteworthy, as many commentators state, that even in the lament recorded in chapter 3, Job does not curse the Lord or directly charge him with wrongdoing. That does not mean, however, that Job will make it to the end of the story without any failures. Job does finally repent for what he says throughout the book, and God does receive this repentance, which indicates that Job is guilty of some kind of sin in his speech (42:1–6). What, then, is Job’s sin?

The answer is to be found in that Job’s cursing of the day on which he was born is an implicit questioning of divine wisdom (chap. 3). Scripture leaves room for us to ask why God does certain things, provided that we do not demand an answer as if the Lord is obligated to explain all of His ways to us. But it is a fine line indeed between asking why our Creator does what He does and calling His wisdom into question because we do not understand—or agree with—His actions. The author of Psalm 10, for example, asks God why He has stood afar off (vv. 1–2), but it turns out that he never actually charges the Lord with not caring for him, for he is confident at the end of the psalm that he will be rescued (vv. 16–18). Job, on the other hand, has to be brought to his knees. He never actually charges God directly with wrongdoing, but in saying, essentially, that it would have been better if he had never been born, Job calls into question God’s wisdom in overseeing the created order.

Finally, Job 3:25–26 is sometimes cited by the Word of Faith movement as proof that what we fear inevitably brings disaster and that we will avoid all trouble if we have faith—defined as making a positive confession and not speaking negatively about the future. This is wishful thinking. The Bible never says that what we fear will inevitably come true.

Coram Deo

It is all too easy to slip from an honest and righteous questioning of God’s ways to an implicit denial that what He has done is right and good. By definition, all that God does is good, so we cannot charge Him even implicitly with wrongdoing. Sometimes, it is better not to ask the Lord the question, “Why?” but instead only to ask Him to help us endure our suffering faithfully. God can handle our questions, but we must never ask them arrogantly.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 33:12–23
Psalm 10
Matthew 23:37–38
Mark 15:33–34

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