Job 3: Job wants to die

Reading: Job 3

After sitting in the dust with his friends for a week, Job finally recites poetry which tells his friends that life is unbearable — he wishes that he were never born. As that wish can not be granted, his greatest hope is to die quickly.

Job is, at this point, a high risk for self-harm. He is grieving his children, his servants, and his wealth. When a wealthy person loses everything, the person loses everything except the bills. Job is physically in pain, and people who are physically hurting are at increased risk. The fact that Job is now saying that he wishes he never lived is a huge red flag. These days, Job would likely be taken to a mental health specialist to help him work through his grief without killing himself.

Now that Job is bankrupt, hurting, and he lost every hope he had for the future, he expresses a level of depression that is difficult to hear. When Eliphaz speaks, he feels he cannot remain silent. We hear what Job says, and we also do not wish to remain silent. We may wish to say that life has value, or that God offers us purpose. We want to answer Job, because life must be worth living.

Answering Job, however offers him no comfort. There is nothing we can say that Job did not know or feel before he lost everything. What Job said was true in the sense that these were the words that best expressed the hurt he was feeling. The only thing that we non-specialists can do is listen, and accept that all this loss is painful. We have to accept that sometimes the darkness and pain is so much that it does seem that there is no end to suffering. If Job will ever find his new normal, he has to acknowledge that the old normal is gone.

There is one thing that we learn if we skip to the end of Job — God makes it clear to everybody that Job is blameless in word and deed. When Job faces such hopelessness that he longs for death, Job does not sin. It is not a moral failing to feel discouraged, hopeless, or even depressed.

When we sit with somebody who is facing such hopelessness, it would be good to remember that we must not condemn them for their emotions, just as God defended Job’s right to say what he felt. Hopelessness is a terrible thing, but it is part of life. When God allowed Job to speak out of his hopelessness, God allows humanity to express utter hopelessness. Pain and hopelessness are not a moral failing, but part of our humanity — a part that we should be able to face without feeling guilty.

Continued with Job 4-5, Eliphaz defends God’s honor

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