How much does suffering weigh? A simple Google search (the weight of suffering) yields millions of hits. Some links show various books about suffering in the world, others relate to losing girth and poundage, while others focus on suffering as a path to deeper trust or (in some cases) nirvana. The contexts are sociological and philosophical (addressing questions of wealth and income inequality on one end and governmental overreach and inconsistency on the other), physical (addressing the need for a healthy body), and spiritual (entering into the sufferings of another for the purpose of transcendency).
Job’s suffering doesn’t line up easily with any of those foci, but the weight of his suffering is immense and Job chapter 6 provides all the miserable details in Job’s initial response to his friend Eliphaz. (My post from last Sunday summarizes how Eliphaz explained Job’s trials.)
Have you ever felt the poison “arrows of the Almighty” piercing into your spirit? Have you ever experienced the “terrors of God” arrayed against you? Though I’ve felt the press of suffering when I’m in the midst of it, I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever experienced desperation as Job did. (Boy, there’s a reason for thankfulness!)
In our society, from time to time we carelessly bandy about concepts like torture: it’s going to be torture not cutting into that turkey until one o’clock. Likewise, the theme of torment is common in the context of unrequited love: I’m tormented because he (or she) doesn’t love me as I love him/her. Whether we’re talking torture or torment, both concepts connote intensity, yes, but compared to Job’s torture and torment? Not even close.
When I study these chapters, Job’s heartwrenching laments draw my deep sympathies. The trials he’s enduring make him yearn for death … quick death. He’s not even thinking quick, painless death, just death, get it over, be done! He’s already undergone almost all the physical injury his body can withstand (and remain alive)! Could actual death deliver a worse blow? No, because his suffering would immediately end … and that would be a relief!
The friends who’ve gathered around him? Job has begun to feel like they enjoy rubbing salt into his wounds! He begs them to treat him fairly! They’re only looking at one side of the balance … and seeing what they perceive to be Job’s sin (his vexation). Look at the other side, he tells them. Between Job’s impatience and his affliction, which one’s greater? Then he answers his own question: his suffering is “heavier than the sand of the seas.” That’s a hefty weight of suffering Job carries.
Keep in mind, Job’s suffering occurred because the adversary (Satan) wanted to BREAK Job! Satan intended to prove to God that Job’s suffering would make him curse God, reject the beneficial hand of the Creator. Job remains stalwart, though his longing for death shows he’s losing his stamina and will to live.
We live in the same world today as the one where Job endured his suffering … the identical adversary continues to corrupt and pollute and use every means at his disposal to make mankind curse our Creator.
Today’s sonnet examines Job chapter 6 and I hope I’ve captured some of Job’s angst. He gives an unvarnished presentation of travails on this planet at a time when it seems God has totally forsaken him and when his friends deliver no comfort, but only judgmental, disheartening comments. The weight of suffering has beaten him down. Would anyone blame Job for buckling under such a load?