Job 7:1-10

Shortly after Joni Eareckson was paralyzed in a diving accident, while she was at a rehabilitation facility, she had thoughts of harming herself. She wrote, (Joni, p. 84)

"I desperately wanted to kill myself. Here I was, trapped in this canvas cocoon. I couldn't move anything except my head. Physically, I was little more than a corpse. I had no hope of ever walking again. I could never lead a normal life and marry Dick. In fact, he might even be walking out of my life forever, I concluded. I had absolutely no idea of how I could find purpose or meaning in just existing day after day — waking, eating, watching TV, sleeping."

Joni's life there was made even more miserable by an attendant who worked the midnight shift. This attendant was an angry and bitter woman. She often made obscene or insensitive comments designed to hurt others. One night she came into Joni's room and brushed all her pictures off the air conditioner. The attendant picked up the picture of Joni's boyfriend and said all kinds of terrible things—including that Joni's boyfriend was involved in all kinds of lewd and vulgar conduct. What she said sickened Joni and Joni spoke up. The attendant came over to the contraption Joni was strapped in and snarled, (p. 92)

"I ought to leave you like this until morning and not flip you. But to show you what a nice person I am, I'll turn you."

With that, she flipped Joni over very quickly and violently. The attendant had not taken the precaution of seeing if Joni's arms were tucked in first. One of Joni's arms was loose, and when she spun the contraption around, Joni's hand struck part of the machine very violently. Even though she didn't feel any pain, Joni could see the hand begin to swell and bruise. Later, after Joni told her mother about it, her mother reported the attendant. Not long after that the attendant came into her room and put her face close to Joni's and whispered in a menacing voice,

"If you ever say anything against me again, you ____, I'll see that you pay for it dearly! Do you understand, you ___!"

Suffering greatly is bad enough. But when you have an evil person tormenting you during it—it's even worse.

When Joni was in the hospital before that, she was with someone who was in worse shape than her. Denise Walters was a 17 year old high school senior. She was athletic, popular, and a cheerleader. One day she was bounding up the stairs at school and tripped. She then realized her legs were starting to feel funny, becoming numb. By the end of the school day she was exhausted. She went home and tumbled into bed. When she woke up she was paralyzed from the waist down. They rushed her to the hospital but they couldn't stop the progression of the disease. Within a week, she was paralyzed from the neck down. In three weeks, she was blind. What she had was rapid progression multiple sclerosis which was shutting down her taking over her body at an abnormally fast pace.

Denise was put in the same room as Joni. By that point Denise could barely talk. At first Denise had some visitors, but as time went one they all stopped coming, except for her mom. Her mom would pray with her, read the Bible to her and play Christian music for her. Denise lingered for 8 years and then died. She suffered so much, with basically just her mother and the hospital staff being aware of it. Eight years in a hospital bed, suffering with no hope of a recovery. Job felt like he was in a similar situation.

In our text

Job complains that his life is meaningless. He tells God that he is miserable and has no hope.

He thinks his life is futile. Christopher Ash writes, (Job, p. 127)

"Job piles up vivid imagery to draw a portrait of his life under the sun—except there isn't much sun. This is Ecclesiastes on a rainy day."

You'll remember the refrain from Ecclesiastes. The book begins, (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

" 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher.'
'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' "

Some people view life as meaningless but that's okay for them, because they are healthy and wealthy and they're at least enjoying themselves. Job has the perspective that life is meaningless but with one added thing. He is suffering. In verses 1-3 Job compares his life to conscripted labor. It's like it's not so much about a complaint about work, but about oppression, like slavery, being forced to work so hard that there is no enjoyment in it. Christopher Ash writes, (p. 127-128)

"The word translated 'hard service' (v. 1) refers to military or conscripted slave labor such as Solomon used (1 Kings 5:13, 14). 'A hired hand' was a poor domestic or agricultural worker, badly paid, in desperate need of each day's pay at the end of the day. We meet such persons in Jesus' parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16). Such slaves long for 'the shadow' (v. 2)—that is, the shadows of evening—because then there will be rest and payment of wages. In the same way Job longs for the shadow of death. In the meantime his life has no dignity, no rest, no joy, and no hope. And it goes on and on; he speaks of 'months of emptiness' (v. 3). This is no short-lived crisis but enduring pain."

Job says he can't sleep at night. He tosses and turns at night, exhausted and desperately seeking rest but unable to get it. Not only that, his skin is dirty, infested with maggots. Christopher Ash writes, (p. 128)

"He is disgusting even to himself (v. 5), his skin dirty, ulcers infested with maggots, alternating between dry hardness and filthy suppuration with no healing anywhere. The maggots or worms that infest Job's skin anticipate the worms that will eat his decaying flesh after his death; indeed, his life is a living death."

No only that, but as strange as it seems, Job says that his days pass swifter than a weaver's shuttle. A weaver's shuttle moves back and forth too quickly to watch. Ash continues, (Job, p. 128)

"The prime of Job's life is passing him by with no achievements, no delight, no relationships, no hope. Another birthday, another year of misery gone. This is one of the paradoxes of suffering, that it can be at the same time a slow pain and a fast running away of life itself. It is a life that is disordered in every way. Job feels that his existence is 'nasty, poor, brutish and short'."

His life seems absolutely futile. For Job, just continuing to live is like oppression. There is no joy in his life. It is pain. He feels like just breathing is hard labor.

When it seems that life is meaningless, what should you do?

The first thing that we see in Job is that

he goes to God.

It's important to note that in chapter 7 Job turns from talking to his friends to talking to God. We're not sure when that transition takes place. It's clear from verse 7 that his words are addressed to God, and it could be that this is the case in the entire chapter.

Job is complaining and he's complaining to God. He's pouring out his heart to God. Job's complaint here is like some of the psalms. For example, in Psalm 13:1–3 David said,

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day
have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;"

Psalm 10 begins,

"Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"

Psalm 88 is even closer to our text. The psalmist complains about God's wrath that is upon him and complains that he is close to death. He closes the psalm by saying that darkness is his closest friend.

Christopher Ash writes, (Job, p. 129)

"everything about Job's experience points to insignificance and transience. This is why he says in effect, 'You will look for me, but I will not be here anymore' (v. 8b). Job is engaged in holy argumentation with God. 'You, the eternal God, are watching over me, and yet I shall go to Sheol and never come back. Is this consistent with your power and your eternity? Surely this cannot be.' This is the language of a believer."

When you're troubled—pour your heart out to God. Certainly we must come to God with reverence, with awe, with a great sense of His holiness. But we must always remember that He loves us with an everlasting love, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

The point is when you think you have nowhere to God—you can and should go to God. Even when you feel like you can't praise Him, even when you're troubled, even when you're bitter and upset—you can and should go to the One who will always accept you.

Secondly, we see that, in his troubles,

Job asked God for help, but ideally he should have done it with more faith and hope than he did.

Job asks God to remember that his life is but a breath. This is a figure of speech that, in reference to God, (Leslie C. Allen, NIDOTTE, 1:1,076)

"has to do with his attention and intervention, whether in grace or in judgment."

God is never inattentive. God rules all things. He upholds and sustains all things. There is nothing in this world that is outside His purview, that escapes His attention. Every cell in our body is governed by His hand, moment by moment.

Yet, sometimes it seems like God's attention is elsewhere. It seems like what Elijah said of the prophets of Baal is true of our God. You'll remember that when Baal didn't answer his prophets, Elijah mocked. We read, (1 Kings 18:27

"At noon Elijah began to taunt them.'
Shout louder!' he said.'Surely he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.' "

Sometimes it seems like our God is too busy for us. 'Remember', used of God, is a figure of speech that, (David J. A. Clines, Job 1–20, WBC 17; p4. 186)

"implies that God's concentration is elsewhere, and that, if he would for a moment simply take note of the fact or condition that is so overwhelmingly obvious to the one praying, he would immediately set about changing the situation. God must have temporarily overlooked…"

Genesis 8:1 says that after the flood came upon the earth,

"God remembered Noah and all the wild animals
and the livestock that were with him in the ark,"

Later, in Genesis 9:15-16 God said that when he sees the rainbow in the sky (which He put there) He will

"remember the everlasting covenant between God
and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

We see the same use in Genesis 30:22 where it says,

"Then God remembered Rachel;
he listened to her and opened her womb.
She became pregnantand gave birth to a son and said,
'God has taken away my disgrace.'
She named him Joseph,"

John E. Hartley writes, (Job, NICOT; p. 147)

"Job wishes that God would become mindful of the transient nature of his life and also realize that his servant is close to the limits of what his body can bear. my eyes will not again experience pleasure. Job is most fearful that if God does not intervene he will never again experience the pleasant side of life."

Job is asking God to remember his condition. Like the Psalmists, Job does not lose faith. He is troubled, but his hope is still firmly in God.

There are two lessons for us here.

First, Job misses an important application of biblical truth that he should know. He fails to see that God's eternity should leave him awestruck and give him hope.

When you brood about your life being transient, think of the great Eternal God and have hope.

Job knows that God, in contrast to him, is eternal. In a sense you could say that Job is crying like a baby, without hope, because his life is ebbing away.

But some of the psalmists, when deal with how transient life is—have hope and are in awe that God cares about us and for us. For example, verse 4 of Psalm 144 says,

"Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow."

But how does he preface that?

"O Lord, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?"

The psalmist of Psalm 144 is actually in awe of God. Tremper Longman III writes, (Job, p. 145)

"awareness of humanity's breath-like existence leads him to be awed before the God who bothers to concern himself with such weak creatures:"

The psalmist is aware of how brief his life is, how uncertain it is. Yet he is amazed that God, the God who has no beginning and will have no end—cares for him.

Christopher Ash said that Job wanted his life to matter. (Job, p. 129)

"And he is right. When arguing with the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, the Lord Jesus said that because God is 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob' (Matthew 22:32), we ought to know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are bound to have an enduring existence. No one who is in relationship with the eternal God can be transient."

Job here loses sight of that connection. He has no hope. Tremper Longman III captures Job's mindset,( Job, p. 145)

"He will be in Sheol, and whether this is simply the grave or a murky underworld where people have a minimal existence, life as he knows it will come to a sad end."

Christopher Ash summarizes this section as Job asking God, "Why do I matter?". He writes, (Job, p. 129)

"the central idea in verses 1–10 seems to be that Job feels instinctively that he ought to matter, but everything about his sufferings suggests that he doesn't. His assumption, indeed his past conviction, is that he lived life in covenant relationship with the Almighty, whom he feared with loving reverence. And he believed that the Almighty looked on him with love. If this is so, Job deduces that he ought, as a human being in the image of God and a believer in relationship with God, to have a derivative significance."

This leads us to our second point.

Job was absolutely wrong in thinking that his life was futile.

Job didn't know it, but his experiences at that time were central in a great contest between God and Satan. The whole heavenly host was watching Job, good angels and fallen angels—seeing God's grace in him, seeing God's faithfulness displayed in him. The book of Job reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:9,

"For it seems to me that
God has put us apostles on display
at the end of the procession,
like men condemned to die in the arena.
We have been made a spectacle
to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men."

Paul knew that his sufferings mattered. God was doing great things through him and the other apostles.

We see the same principle in Ephesians 3:10–11 says about God,

"His intent was that now, through the church,
the manifold wisdom of God
should be made known to the rulers
and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose
which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God uses the church, that's us, His people, to show God's wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Those rulers in heavenly realms saw it in Job and they hopefully see it in you.

In her book, A Step Further, Joni Eareckson said her friend Steve Estes greatly helped her in her discouragement by saying, (p. 34)

"We are onstage. Others are watching. We can do our part well, building up the entire audience. Or we can ad-lib by acting out our own bitter feelings and bring dishonor to the Playwright. The choice is ours."

Earlier I mentioned how Joni shared a room with Denise Walters—whose life, that was ebbing away, seemed futile. Joni wrote about Denise,

"her life wasn't a waste… Denise knew that although not many people may have cared, someone was watching her in that lonely hospital room—a great many someones."

Several years after Denise died, Joni gave a talk at a church in Baltimore and mentioned Denise's courage and faith in her suffering. Afterwards two women came up to her and told her that they worked with Denise's mother. Joni had been wanted to get in touch with Denise's mother but didn't know how to contact her. She told the women,

"When you see her, please give her a message from me. Please let her know that Denise's life was not in vain. I know it seems those eight long years in that lonely hospital bed didn't count for much or do anybody any good. But angels and demons stood amazed as they watched her uncomplaining and patient spirit rising as a sweet-smelling savor to God."

As one of God's people you should know that none of your suffering goes unnoticed. Job's existence was not in vain. Moment my moment, day by day, week by week, Job's suffering was a great testament to proving Satan wrong.

Although we don't often think of it this way, suffering can be your work for the Lord, the work that the Lord has given you to do. That means that your suffering, no matter how hidden it seems, has great meaning. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 Paul said to believers,

"Therefore, my dear brothers,
stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, for your life to have true meaning, you need to go to Jesus. At the end of your life you want it to mean something, for it to have great value.

If you go to Jesus, it will. Go to Him today.