After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:
3 “May the day of my birth perish,
and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’
4 That day—may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine on it.
5 May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more;
may a cloud settle over it;
may blackness overwhelm it.
6 That night—may thick darkness seize it;
may it not be included among the days of the year
nor be entered in any of the months.
7 May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it.
8 May those who curse days curse that day,
those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.
9 May its morning stars become dark;
may it wait for daylight in vain
and not see the first rays of dawn,
10 for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me
to hide trouble from my eyes.
11 “Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
12 Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
13 For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest
14 with kings and rulers of the earth,
who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,
15 with princes who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day?
17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,
and there the weary are at rest.
18 Captives also enjoy their ease;
they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.
19 The small and the great are there,
and the slaves are freed from their owners.
20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
If you are hurting, this post is especially for you. Let me start by saying: God has not forsaken you, you are loved. I pray that you find comfort, or at least solidarity, through this Bible verse: Even Job, a man of great faith, wept and cursed and wished for death. What you’re feeling is normal, and, if whatever happened feels like a test of your Faith, try not to worry too much about that, just focus on getting through your sorrow.
This poem is beautiful in its anguish, something I did not notice or appreciate the first time I read through Job. The imagery is vivid: Even night is not dark enough for Job’s misery – he wishes a thick darkness to swallow up the (dark of) the night he was born. He wishes he were dead. But not just dead, never-even-been-born dead – “hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day.” (v. 16) And why wouldn’t he? Beyond everything else he’s suffered, now the most basic of needs and pleasures, namely easing hunger and quenching thirst, have been taken from him: “sighing has become my daily food, and my groans pour out like water.”
I hate it when people say “God won’t give you more than you can bear,” and “everything happens for a reason.” Statements like that make it too easy to dismiss human suffering. The saying I do like, and that I’ve mentioned before, is “God didn’t promise a smooth ride, but rather a soft landing.” Hard things, sad things, are going to happen. Maybe some of them are happening for our personal growth, but I truly believe some of them are just bad luck, too, and part of being human. I adore my girls, but they still fall down. I could put them in kneepads and elbow pads and not go for walks or let them play on the playground – but the occasional bumps and bruises are so worth the rest of life!
So why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, as Job so excellently asks in v. 23? If you have the answer, I’d love to know! I was skimming an article just a few days ago that said there is a duality in Job we’d do well to recognize: Job is faithful, but he is also mournful. In other words, this question is in part a valid question: Job, and us with him, are exploring why God allows bad things to happen to good people. This is a question that any healthy faith should be able to ask. But also, this is a rhetorical question asked in anguish, a way for Job to express his distress. I’ve written one post already about having Faith through times of Doubt, and having Faith through times of Mourning is similar. Job curses himself and the day of his birth, and he even raises questions to God with v. 23, but he does not curse God. Later he will plaintively make his case for being wrongly stricken by the calamities befalling him, but even in his frustration with his friends and sorrow over his situation, he will not curse God.
We have a bird’s-eye view of Job’s story, and know things that he does not at the time he utters this lament, particularly that God has not forsaken him. Let’s try to remember that in our times of sorrow, too. To my readers that are hurting, I’ll say again: God has not forsaken you. Perhaps you will grow from this experience, but if you don’t that’s OK, too. Maybe you’re sad because a shitty thing just happened, the spiritual and emotional equivalent of falling off the swing at the playground. If it helps you cope to ask “why,” then do so, but know that you can also just mourn, as Job does, and God will listen.