In this chapter Job is tormented because it appears that he knows God is very close to him, and keeping a watchful eye on him (v3), but still Job’s suffering continues. God’s presence doesn’t bring comfort, instead He wants God to leave him alone so he can die in relative peace. Job doesn’t believe in an immediate afterlife (v14) so he longs for the absolute rest that death will bring.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as desperate as this, but I have felt as if God was close to me, and have believed in his power and goodness, yet been frustrated that he isn’t doing more to help me or help others. I can empathise with Job in his frustration with a God who appears to be impotent at that time and in his particular situation.
In v7-9 Job describes a tree, which he says has more hope than him; if it is cut down it can come back to life and bud again. I assume this is an analogy about suffering and loss. Job doesn’t feel as if he can recover from all he has endured and has had taken from him. We are taught elsewhere in the bible that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, but it seems to me that, as often as suffering produces these noble traits in people, it also produces depression, anger and bitterness, it is by no means a foolproof method. Why does God use such an imperfect method? Are there any alternatives?
In v10-12 Job describes people as dry river beds that evaporate and disappear as soon as they die, they are gone just like that. This is actually often how I feel about God; one minute he is there and he gives life to whatever I am doing so that it flourishes, the next minute he seems to have disappeared and there is only a ‘dry waterbed’ indicating that he was ever present. Am I the only one who feels like this?
When I think about a dry river bed returning to life, what happens first? Does water flow over the baked soil or does mud appear?
In v18-19 a disturbing description of erosion and collapse is used to describe how God destroys hope. In a limited way I can identify with this – until a couple of months ago I had plans for one area of my life, but now that we are returning to live in the USA again (we spent two years in Virgina from 2014-16, are now back in the UK where we’re from, and are moving to Alabama in summer 2018 for another few years) I have had to give up on those plans. Has God destroyed my hope? Job seems to put his hope in his children, was he right to do this? I had my own plans, though I thought I had prayed to God about them. Am I putting my hope in the wrong things? Was Job?
Unlike Job, I don’t want God to leave me alone, I want to be with him, but suffering and loss are still hard to bear and there don’t seem to be any easy answers.