For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
– Job 6:4 ESV
This is a bit shocking as Job reflects on his circumstances, his frustration is apparent. In the same way that even an animal will not bray unless something is wrong, Job vents his pain and distress against God and his friends. To use his imagery, he has lost his taste for life or in any other terms he has lost all desire for life (v. 7). What is unique about this is somehow he feels God is the one who has inflicted this suffering and pain. While that sounds strange to us listen to his statement in verse 8-9:
Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope,
9 that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
10 This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. (Job 6:8-10 ESV)
Several things that surface in this narrative:
- Job is speaking out of his own perspective and recounting how he feels about the situation and how he feels toward God; He is not necessarily building a theological construct or argument.
- Job is asking (8-9) that God would end his suffering even if it means ending his life or cutting him off.
- Job still sees God as involved in his situation regardless of how clear or unclear it is about how God is truly involved in the situation.
The struggle with this kind of ongoing pain is not something I have much experience with at least to the point of feeling like life would be better off ending than enduring ongoing, unbearable suffering. For many Christians even to think this way would seem to equal the unpardonable sin because the assumption is thinking and feeling his way is a lack of faith. These kinds of statements usually come from people who have never suffered in a really significant way. That may be a good thing because most of us whine and complain at much less superficial suffering; who knows how things would disintegrate in severe suffering. While Job scrambles to make sense of his suffering it reminds us that pain causes us to search for some reason or response from others and from God.
What we ought to notice is that in spite of this overwhelming suffering, his one desire (deep in the caverns of his soul) is that he would not have denied the words of the Holy One (v. 10).
The hard thing about Job is distinguishing between how one feels about the struggle or God and the reality of what is really going on. He is obviously being authentic and transparent about it. The question is often “What is the theological reality?” but the problem is most people don’t care in the midst of much suffering. Here is the paradox: our feelings do not determine truth but they may struggle with understanding what is real. In spite of how he feels he is hoping that no matter what happens he would not deny the truth of God.