Devotional: Job 6-7 Normal Emotions Are Good

At this point in the book of Job we have seen that Job was a righteous man who lost everything. Job then laments the day he was born, but his friend, Eliphaz, responses in critiquing Job’s emotional response. Eliphaz asserts that if Job just repent of some vague sin or foolishness, God would then fix Job’s self-inflicted troubles.

In Job 6-7, we now hear Job’s response in defending his emotions as being just and asking God what he did so wrong to deserve this. In this whole book, we should make note that Job’s friends never pray to God or talk to God, yet presume to speak for him. It is only Job who talks to God at all.

Job 6

1) But Job answered and said,
2) Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!
3) For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.
4) For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.
5) Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder?
6) Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
7) The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.

Job is telling his friends that what he is going through is legitimately bad. He is expressing anguish over nothing or inventing drama. He says that even animal make noise because they are hungry or in distress. He, as a human being, has the right to make noise or verbally express his emotions.

8) Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!
9) Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!
10) Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

Job prays for death and comfort in death, but he does not contemplate doing it himself. As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts, this is an extremely important difference. Job maybe talking about very dark and strong emotions, but he is still putting his life in God’s hands. I can’t really imagine a person feeling more despair than seeing death as comfort and peace, yet Job is expressing a type of faith in God’s authority and sovereignty. This faith is part of what makes Job righteous even in the depths of despair. When we contemplate self-harm, we take over control of our destiny and end all conversation with God. When we are in our darkest days, that conversation with God, bold and uncensored, is precisely where we need to go. If we were powerful enough to change our lives, we would, so we should not take power over our life and death. We need to go to the true source of power to change things – God.

11) What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?
12) Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?
13) Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?
14) To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

It is interesting to me that Job connects showing pity to having the fear of God. In other words, compassion is the godly response to those who face trials. Job also defends his emotional response by saying he is not made of metal or stone; he is flesh without power over his life. It is not right for us to demand that people should bottle up their emotions in stoicism. At the same time, people shouldn’t be pressured to express emotions that are uncomfortable for them. The truth is that we need to be sympathetic to people feeling as they do and expressing it in the best ways they can. Job’s dialogue with his friends shows that even with the different time and culture, people are uncomfortable with prolonged expression of negative emotions. There is a time when someone can be stuck in depression, but this isn’t what Job is dealing with. He is still suffering. His emotions fit the context even if his suffering has lasted a long time.

15) My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;
16) Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid:
17) What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place.
18) The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.
19) The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.
20) They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed.

Job is comparing his friends to a brook that promised water and nurturing, but instead dries up in time of need. There are times on our own lives in which we experience remarkable generosity from those around us and then other times when all help seems to disappear. The least his friends could have done was provide sympathy and encouragement.

21) For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.
22) Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance?
23) Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?

Here, Job is asking his friends if he had asked them for anything. They came out of their own will. Even so, their coming did seem to imply they were going to offer comfort.

24) Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
25) How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?
26) Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?
27) Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.
28) Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie.
29) Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.
30) Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?

Job now addresses Eliphaz’s general accusations that Job has sinned. He tells his friends that he is willing to listen and learn from them, but so far they have not found anything specifically wrong that he has done. The general condemnation is not helpful.

Job 7

1) Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
2) As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:
3) So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.

4) When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.

According to the Clark’s Commentary, Job is saying that the human existence is a time of hardship and trials like that of a field worker. The field worker wants to be out of the hots sun and in the shadows for relief, Job does does not find any relief from his difficulties, not even in sleep.

5) My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
6) My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.

Job returns to expressing his distress. Again, he isn’t rehashing his past losses or past pain, but the current distress he is feeling at that moment. This is an important thing to note for our own healing from trauma. Expressing our full emotions and intense pain is very healthy, but living on it for many years is not. Job’s friends should allow Job to fully express his healthy emotions at the time he is feeling them so that he can deal with his pain at the correct and healthy time.

7) O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.
8) The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
9) As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
10) He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.

Job has now turned his lament to God and it is reminding God that he is mortal. The verse before this is unclear to whom Job is speaking, but it becomes more clear now.

11) Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12) Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?
13) When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;
14) Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:
15) So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
16) I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity.

I find this passage especially meaningful on a personal level. Job is asking God why he has singled him out among creation to torment. He asks God to leave him alone. The word “vanity” connects with the book of Ecclesiastes in describing life as a vapor or a wisp of air. Job is saying that he just wants his short mortal life to be uneventful and peaceful.

17) What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
18) And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
19) How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?

The phrase “swallow down my spittle” is a common middle eastern saying that describes having such a dry mouth that you need to take a moment to swallow and wet your mouth. This happens when talking a lot, doing athletes, or working hard. Job is asking God why he is continually test humanity without even enough of a break to wet their mouth. It’s the image of us going from crisis to crisis our whole lives.

20) I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
21) And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.

Job’s last declaration to God is not an admission of a particular sin as though to agree with Eliphaz. Instead, Job is saying that he is a sinful human being. We all do unknown wrongs and have imperfections. Job is admitting that he is not perfect, but asking why God does not reveal and forgive his sins rather than just punish him blindly. Job understands that God is not about vengeance, but about correcting is to make us better people.

So in the conclusion of Job’s speech we still don’t know “why” God has allowed these bad things to happen, but we do know that it is righteous to express our feelings during times of trial and to express those emotions directly to God. Job does not sensor his conversation with God to sound more “churchy” and neither should we. It is perfectly fine to be angry at God, but I encourage you to make sure to tell him and wrestle through the emotions with God. He is big enough to handle it. If God did not zap Job with lightning for his words, he won’t zap you either. Human friends may censor your words, but God won’t. He calls Job righteous. Call on God in your sorrow. In the end, you will get healing and peace.