When Life Doesn’t Seem worth the Pain
Topic: Expository Passage: Job 2:11–3:26
( This is raw audio for now. will update when we get the final version)
This morning, we are going to study a very unique section of Scripture. Job 3 is widely considered the darkest, most hopeless chapter in the entire Bible. Yes, there are many expressions of sorrow in Scripture, but almost all of them include some level of hope. Not Job 3. Job doesn’t just long for death; he is in such despair that he wishes his entire life, including his greatest joys, could be wiped from history.
We all experience sorrow, but I’ve never been in that dark of a place, and hopefully most of you haven’t been either. But some have been very close, if not right there with Job. Maybe you’re there today. You want death, not because you long for heaven, but because you simpy hate your life and regret its existence.
If so, take hope in the fact that God put Job 3 in the Bible to say, “I know your pain, and I care about your pain.” This text is for you. And it’s for all of us as we endure varying levels of sorrow and as we minister to others in their sorrow. And I’m especially grateful, that God doesn’t just know our pain; he provides real answers in the rest of Scripture for Job’s hopeless despair. We’re going to pick up today where we left off two weeks ago in 2:11–13, which introduce us to Job’s deep pain.
I. Job’s Deep Pain (2:11–13)
Two weeks ago, we left off in 2:10 with Job’s second climactic confession of confidence in God (read). It’s an incredible moment of victory. But while Job overcame Satan’s temptation, he is still grieving his loss and suffering agonizing physical pain.
Job’s Friends (v. 11): And v. 11 tells us, “Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him.” These friends are “Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.”
These men are probably wealthy lords, like Job had been. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the freedom to spend weeks or even months with Job. As well, they all come from different geographical regions—Teman, Shuah, and Naamath. Teman is the only one we know of with any certainty. It’s located in Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea.
Even though they live far away, they eventually heard about Job’s plight, and they made plans to visit Job together. And even though they don’t end up providing much comfort, we should give them credit for loving for their friend. Their intent is to “mourn with him, and to comfort him.”
Their Amazement (v. 12): It’s worth emphasizing that it would take a while for the news of Job’s loss to reach his friends, for them to communicate plans with each other, and then to make the journey. So, by the time they reach Job, he has probably endured the boils for several weeks or even months, and his disease has taken a huge toll on his body (v. 12).
Imagine the shock. They knew Job as “the greatest of all the men of the east,” but now he is sitting in the city dump. He has probably lost a lot of weight, his skin is dark and ravaged with the awful sores. They don’t recognize him.
It’s shocking, and they grieved loudly. If you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer a slow, miserable death, you know what they felt. It’s very difficult to see vitality get sucked away.
Their Sympathy (v. 13): As a result, for 7 days and 7 nights they sat in complete silence, “And no one spoke a word to him(Job), for they saw that his grief was very great.”
Many people have pointed out that their commitment to just sit with Job in silence is a great way to minister to the grieving. We often feel like we must come up with the perfect words that will fix people’s grief. But often, there are no words that can fix people’s sorrows. But what we can provide is the love of Christ that is ready “to weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15).
But the primary point of v. 13 is to emphasize that Job had endured a stunning, dramatic turn of events. All 4 men are at a complete loss for words. They cannot comprehend what God is doing.
So, for 7 days the only sounds are Job’s occasional groans, while all 4 men try to wrap their minds around what has happened. Finally, Job breaks the silence, but not with the testimony of faith we saw in 1:21 or 2:10. Rather, 3:1 states, “Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his” What follows has been called the most hopeless, darkest chapter of Scripture.
II. Job cursed the day of his birth (vv. 1–10)
Before we get into the meat of this chapter, I want to note a couple of things.
Significance of Poetry to Job: Job 3:1–42:6 is all written in poetry. Why is that? It’s because poetry has a unique ability to express our deepest emotions. Clearly, God doesn’t just want us to go on a philosophical journey with Job and his friends. He wants us to enter their emotional world and struggle through their confusion, frustration, and sorrow.
As I said in my first sermon, God wants us to read this book with our heads and our hearts. So, don’t neglect the emotional side of Job 3 or the next 38 chapters. It’s a big part of the book’s message. Second, if we are going to interpret Job accurately, we must recognize…
The Difference between Descriptive and Prescriptive Revelation: This is an important distinction for interpreting Job and many other sections of Scripture. Specifically, much of Scripture is prescriptive, meaning that it uses faithful instruction and positive examples to teach us what to believe and how to act. But all Scripture is not prescriptive. Much of it is descriptive, meaning that it accurately records what people said and did, but not with the intent that we would to imitate them or their beliefs. In fact, Scripture often teaches us as much through bad examples as it does through good examples. The question is, how do you tell the difference?
Read Scripture in context. You should always be asking yourself, “How does this verse, paragraph, and chapter fit in the bigger argument of the story or book or even the broader narrative of Scripture?” If you recognize the author’s intent, you’ll be much better equipped to see the difference.
Compare Scripture with Scripture. God is not a schizophrenic; rather, Scripture communicates a unified message. Therefore, we always want to interpret texts that are less clear in light of others that are very clear.
This is going to be very important for interpreting Job. Everything in Job is inspired or accurate, but everything Job and his friends say is not true.
Rather, God uses the wrong thoughts and emotions of the characters to force us to ponder some hard realities of life and our emotional struggles. So, take the time to enter the characters’ emotional world, but do so with discernment, keeping an eye on context and the broader theology of Scripture. This is important here in Job 3. Job begins by cursing…
The Day of His Birth (in particular) and the Day of His Conception (read vv. 1–10): This is heavy stuff, though I want to emphasize that while Job curses the day of his birth, he never curses God, which is significant to the bigger story. Still, Job is clearly upset.
Think about the joy that is normally associated with conception and birth. The statement in v. 3, “A male child is conceived,” is normally filled with excitement. If you are a parent, remember how happy you were when you first learned that you were expecting. It gets even better when you first hold that child in your arms. There are few greater joys in life than the day a child is born. But Job is so miserable that he curses the night of his conception and the day of his birth for the agony they have brought him.
In vv. 4–5, he focuses on the Day of His Birth. Again, a birthday is typically a great day. We celebrate it every year, but Job wants his birthday to be shrouded in the darkest night and gloom. He wishes it had never occurred.
Then in vv. 6–7 Job pronounced A Curse on the Night of His Conception. Again, we typically are very excited to learn that a baby is coming, but Job wishes that the night of his conception would be wiped from the calendar and that there would be “no joyful shout” in that day.
Then in vv. 8–9 Job pronouns Further Curses. In v. 8, Job calls on professional cursers to curse the day of his birth. Think of King Balak paying Balaam to curse Israel. You might wonder what he means by, “Thosewho are ready to arouse Leviathan.” We’ll talk more about Leviathan when we get to Job 41, but Leviathan referred to a sea monster in other ancient literature.
Apparently, magicians would attempt to arouse Leviathan to reign down chaos and destruction on humanity. Therefore, Job wants these magicians to enlist Leviathan to destroy the day of his birth. That’s certainly descriptive, not prescriptive.
Then in v. 9, he wishes that the morning lights would never appear on the day of his birth. Again, he wants it wiped away forever. Why is that? It’s “Because it did not shut up the doors of mymother’s womb, nor hide sorrow from my eyes.” In other words, that day dared to let Job be born and suffer so much misery.
You can see that Job is in a dark place. He doesn’t just want to die; he is so bitter that wants his entire life wiped from the record, including the joys of his childhood and his family and friends. He is so embittered that he doesn’t look back on any of it fondly. So, what do we do with that? What should we say to someone who despises their own existence and sees no value in it?
The Bible teaches that all human life is a precious gift of God’s grace to be celebrated. Genesis 9:6 speaks of the value of human life. The fact that we bear the image of God means that every human life is precious and valuable. This is so important to remember in a day when our culture has totally lost sight of the value of human life. We all bear God’s image, and we are all precious, from an unborn child to a dying Alzheimer’s patient.
Maybe someone is watching who sees no meaning or purpose to your life. Maybe you think that your family and friends would be better off if they had never been burdened with your existence, or if you just died right now. First, I seriously doubt they would agree. Most likely you have worked yourself into an emotional mess, and you aren’t seeing the world clearly.
But beyond that, you absolutely have value as God’s image bearer, and the Bible consistently teaches that God’s heart is inclined toward the weak, the broken, and the desperate. Mark 5:25–26 tell us, “Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.” Imagine how worthless this woman felt, especially in a world, where childbearing was essential to a woman’s value. But Jesus knew her, he cared about her, and he healed her body and her soul.
And Christ cares about you as well. You are precious to him, and your life has value in him, no matter what you have done or haven’t done. But sadly, Job didn’t see that. In vv. 11 –19…
III. Job lamented life itself (vv. 11–19)
Job wished his parents had rejected him at birth or that his mother had miscarried (vv. 11–12, 16). Verses 11–12 are so sad. If you are a parent, remember the joy you felt when you first held your children. It’s such a precious moment. But Job is so embittered over his existences that he wishes his parents had been robbed of that moment, and he was stillborn.
Even worse, he wishes that his mother had discarded of him instead of receiving him onto her knees and then onto her breasts. Rather than following her instinct of nurturing the precious life of her newborn son, he wishes she had let him die.
He says something similar in v. 16. He wishes his mother had miscarried, probably when he was very underdeveloped and simply discarded of his remains. It’s pretty depressing isn’t it?
In the remainder of this paragraph, Job longed for the rest and equality of death. Again, Job sees himself as at the bottom of humanity, but he sees death as the great equalizer. In vv. 13–15 he claims that in death he would be equal with the greatest kings and princes. And in vv. 17–19 he longs for the relief that death brings to those who are oppressed and who suffer.
So, Job sees death as better than life. But it’s not because Job is longing for heaven. There is nothing in this chapter about the hope of eternity. I say that because Job doesn’t distinguish between the righteous and unrighteous.
So Job is not expressing the heart of Paul, who said in Philippians 1:23, “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which isfar better.” Rather, he is looking at death solely as an escape from the suffering of this world and as the great equalizer. So how does the Bible respond to Job’s thinking?
The first corrective is, Death does not create equality; it brings justice. This is because everyone will give an account to the Lord. Of course, for a true believer like Job who will be judged on the basis of Christ, that’s a good thing. But it’s not for everyone else. As hard as this reality may be, it is true, and it radically alters what death means for the unbeliever.
A second corrective is, The only way I will ever view life or death rightly is from an eternal perspective. I particularly want to emphasize that eternity doesn’t just change how a Christian looks at death; it radically alters how I look at life and especially the sorrows of life. For example, 1 Peter 3:9 encourages believers who are suffering unjustly by saying, “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” The promise of God’s reward gives purpose to my sacrifice. My pain is not pointless.
So, maybe you feel like your life has no purpose or value. You are just suffering for no good reason. I would urge you to view your life through the lens of God’s eternal reward. Don’t look at your suffering just for the pain that it brings. There is so much more at stake. Every trial is an opportunity to walk by faith, display the grace of God, become like the Savior, and add to God’s eternal prize. Eternity means that you have many important reasons to keep going. See the prize, endure by faith, and if you need help, please talk to us. But sadly, Job wasn’t seeing with eyes of faith. Notice in vv. 20–26…
IV. Job longed for death (vv. 20–26).
To me, vv. 20–23 are the saddest part of this whole chapter. They state that Job sought for death but couldn’t find it. In v. 20, Job essentially says that it a cruel injustice that those who are truly suffering are made to continue on. And v. 21 compares death to “hidden treasures.” The Bible pictures the gospel, the kingdom, and a virtuous woman to treasure, but Job pictures death as a lost treasure. And he pictures himself as desperately searching for this treasure but as unable to find it.
I’ve seen people whose bodies are so ravaged with pain and decay, that they just want to go be with Jesus. I’ve seen families who hurt for these loved ones, and they long for their pain to be over. For the Christian, death is gain, so when God’s time is near, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But there seems to be bitterness in Job’s voice. He believes that he is being treated cruelly and justly. Notice again the question of v. 23. Job feels like he is struck in a nightmare, a horror house. He has been given light so that he can see the horrors, but he can’t find anyway out. He even goes so far as to say that God won’t let him out. He has hedged him into this nightmare. Finally…
Job laments the fruition of his worst fears (vv. 24–26). Job is so torn up that he can’t eat. He just groans in misery like a constant stream. And then he adds in v. 25 that his worst nightmares had come true. I have to think he is thinking of the death of his children, because no parent wants to see his children die. Yet Job had lost all 10 of his kids. It was like he was stuck in a terrible nightmare, and he couldn’t wake up. As a result, just listen to the despair in his voice as he concludes his complaint (v. 26). You hurt for him, don’t you? What would you say to Job? Therefore, I’d like to conclude by answering the question…
V. What do you do when death seems better than life?
Receive Christ as Savior. I’m not saying that this is what Job needed. He clearly was God’s child, and he just found himself in a dark place. But sadly, many people around us live in despair without any hope of eternal salvation. They see no meaning in life, and long for death, but they don’t realize that outside of Christ, death is worse, not better.
But the good news of the gospel changes everything. Isaiah 53:3–6 state, “He is despised andrejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne ourgriefs and carried oursorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions,He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
This passage tells us that Jesus fully understands the sorrows and griefs of this world. And that he endured them so that he could pay the price for our sin so that we would never have to face the judgment of God. Instead, we can be healed. And the Bible says that he will become your Savior if you will simply repent of your sin and believe on Christ. If you do, you can know that you are on your way to heaven, and it will forever transform how you view your pain. Please receive Christ today.
Lean on the suffering Savior. We just read that Jesus is “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” I’m so thankful that our God is not detached from and disinterested in our pain. No, Jesus understands your pain, and he sympathizes with your grief. So, look to him for comfort and sympathy.
Then, Hebrews 12:1–2 say, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I know that some of you are carrying a heavy load. But know that Jesus saw the joy before him, and he made it through his suffering. And because he did, you can too. So, lean on the suffering Savior and keep going in the power of his grace.
Cling to the hope of eternity. As I said earlier, the hope of eternity means that there is no such thing as meaningless suffering for those who are in Christ. Quite the opposite, all our suffering is an opportunity for growth and glory. 1 Peter 1:6–7 state, “In this (i.e., salvation) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
See this hope clearly, rejoice in your hope, and let it transform how you see your plight. Your suffering is not meaningless; it is God’s means of refining you so that some day you will enjoy, “praise, honor, and glory.”
Lean on the people of God. Galatians 6:2–3 state, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” In other words, we need to help each other through the struggles of life, and if anyone thinks that they don’t need that support, they are deceived.
So, if you are suffering under the weight of grief, temptation, or just life, don’t try to bear it alone. Give God’s people the opportunity to exercise Christ’s love and get under that load with you.
Turn your attention away from yourself and toward service. If you have just been rocked with a severe loss, you might not be ready for this step. But a crucial step to living with pain is that you learn to use it selflessly. Paul set a wonderful example in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” That outward focus will get you so much further than focusing on yourself.
We live in a broken, difficult world. But I’m so thankful that we have an eternal hope, a sympathetic Savior, and we have each other. Praise God.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man”