Language

Select Wisdom Brand
Job Lesson 8 - Hitting Rock Bottom

Job Lesson 8 - Hitting Rock Bottom

Series: Job
Ref: Job 3

If Job -- a man of character, integrity and faith -- can hit rock bottom, you and I can as well. Most of us have already. That is why, when dealing with the problem of suffering, there is no better place for us to turn than to this little Divinely inspired book called Job.

Transcript

Hitting Rock Bottom

Job 3

William Wilberforce was a champion.  In fact, this year, with the release of a major motion picture about his life, many people will now know something about him. 

This year marks the 200th year of the passage of a bill he pushed and pulled through Parliament which eventually led to the abolition of the slave trade throughout the West Indies and Great Britain.  In 1807, William saw his bill passed in Parliament which abolished the slave trade.  The movie details his efforts with this particular bill.

He didn’t stop with the passage of that bill.  He spent another 26 years passionately defending the bill to abolish slavery entirely.  That bill was finally passed in 1833, 3 days before he died.

William was also a committed believer.  I’m in the middle of reading his biography.  His Uncle and Aunt were saved under the ministry of George Whitefield and they had a great influence on Wilberforce who eventually came to faith in Christ as young man – later discipled and inspired by John Newton, pastor and author of the hymn, Amazing Grace. 

While many will only see the heroic side of his efforts in the name of Christ, many will never know that he suffered greatly.  Early in his life, doctors prescribed daily opium pills to help him cope with the incredible pain of his ulcerative colitis.  The medicine in his day was considered a “pure drug” but the effects wore him down.  He had colon problems, an inability to see without difficulty, lung problems, painful episodes with ulcers; he suffered in his adult life with curvature of the spine that degenerated over time. 

On author wrote that as a middle aged man, “one of his shoulders began to slope; and his head fell forward a little more each year until it rested on his chest unless lifted by conscious movement; he would have looked grotesque were it not for the charm of his face and the smile about his mouth.  For 20 years, he wore a brace beneath his clothing that most people knew nothing about – a steel brace around his waist, cased in leather, which supported his back and arms.

John Piper, The Roots of Endurance (Crossway Books, 2002), p. 117

The truth is, most of the time we like our heroes to suffer some, but we are left somewhat saddened to discover that they suffered greatly.

But what really troubles us though is to discover that our heroes of the faith often struggled with despair and even depression.

When one great theologian in the 19th century lost two of his sons in the space of month, he was brought to a moment he had never experienced before.  He hit rock bottom.  He wrote, “When Jimmy died, the grief was painfully sharp, but the acting of faith, the embracing of consolation, and all the cheering truths which ministered comfort to me were just as vivid.”  That’s a great place to stop, isn’t it.  That’s what we like to hear.  A great man of God hit rock bottom but came back up with smile.  But he goes on in the same letter, “But when the stroke was repeated, and thereby doubled, I seem to be paralyzed and stunned.  I know that my loss is doubled, and I know also that the same cheering truths apply to the second as to the first, but I remain numb, downcast . . . without hope and interest.”

John Piper/Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Crossway Books, 2006), p. 179

That’s not the way you’re supposed to talk, is it?

We’re a little uncomfortable with the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great preacher of the 19th century who once wrote, “I am the subject of depression so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

Steven Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Job (Holman Publishers, 2004), p. 33

Steven Lawson, who will be with us this summer in our summer series, writes in his commentary on Job, “Every person has a breaking point;  even genuine believers have a point at which they can become severely discouraged and even depressed.  Such despair can cause a person to want to give up on life.”

Lawson, p. 34

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you’ve ever experienced despair like that and wondered how you could be a Christian and feel that way; if you have ever been hurt so badly that you wished you could go to heaven; if you suffered so long with pain and you are so tired that all you want to do is lie down and die; if you’ve ever looked for some escape hatch in life – some way out – some exit sign – some relief – you may have more in common with the heroes of the faith than you ever dreamed.

Like David the heroic singer/king who wrote his 88th Psalm and it begins and ends in despair; he writes, “O Lord, you have put me in the lowest pit” . . . in other words, I can’t get any lower than I am; in fact the last words never rise to the surface as he laments, “Darkness is my closest friend.” 

“Not even one crumb of comfort.”

Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, (Crossway Books, 1994), p. 56

That’s the last stanza at that moment in his life.

 

Or like John the Baptizer, that heroic prophet who stood against the world for the gospel of the Lamb of God . . . but now he is totally despondent and disillusioned. 

He’s sitting in a prison cell, hours away from being killed by Herod for having condemned his immorality and he’s wondering if all his efforts and all his preaching have made any difference, in fact, wondering if he had been following the wrong Messiah after all. 

It seemed that Christ wasn’t fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament after all . . . prisoners weren’t being freed; the yoke of bondage wasn’t being lifted.   So he sends a delegation of his disciples to Christ and they ask this question from their imprisoned leader, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

He’d hit rock bottom.  And now, even though he’d baptized Jesus and heard the voice from heaven; watched the Spirit descend like a dove; heard the Savior preach and perform miracles that only God could do . . . he had reached his breaking point in prison.

Lord – are you really the Messiah or should we pack our bags and look for someone else?

That’s not the way we expect heroes of the faith talk.

Perhaps that’s why Job chapter 3 makes us uncomfortable.  Perhaps that’s why most students study Job chapters 1 and 2 and marvel at the man who said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21) and in chapter 2:10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

Man, that’s how heroes speak in the face of incredible pain.

But then . . . let’s move quickly past chapter 3 where Job has reached the bottom of the pit.   Think about it – have you ever met anybody who memorized any verse from Job chapter 3?

Who wants to memorize verse 3 where Job says, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born.”  How’s that for a Happy Birthday card?  Or verse 11, “Why did I not die at birth?”  Or the last verse – 26.  I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.”

Isn’t that encouraging?  Can you see that framed and hanging in the church lobby – “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet.”  That might work in the nursery department.  Might just be a theme verse!

It’ll never make it on as many TShirts and coffee mugs as

Romans 8:28 . . . or Jeremiah 29:11.

So let’s just rush to the end of the Book where Job is comforted by God and restored to health and a new family.

Not so fast . . . what about chapter 3?

Job’s first speech is dived into three stanzas.

The first section could have the heading, “Job curses the day he was born.”  That runs from verse 3 to verse 10.

The second section could be headlined, “Job wishes he’d died at birth.”  That runs from verse 11 through verse 19.

The third and final section could be entitled, “Job longs for death to come now.”  That takes us from verse 20 to the end of the chapter.

1)  By taking a quick scan at the first section

you can see the repetition of the words, “let” and “may.”

In Hebrew syntax these words are known as jussives – they are words that refer to desire – as if they could issue commands.  You could translate them by saying, “I wish”.

  • I wish the day had never come when I was born (v. 3)
  • I wish the night had never happened when I was conceived (v. 3)
  • I wish the day was darkness when I was born (v. 4)
  • I wish God didn’t care about my birthday and that He’d kept the light from ever dawning on that day (v. 4)
  • I wish the blackness of night and gloom blot it out. (v. 5)
  • I wish no one to ever celebrate my birthday again because I wish it had never happened (v. 6)

And on and on.

Why would Job ever say such things?  Because he’s depressed; He’s hit rock bottom and wants nothing to do with life.

Swindoll, p. 63

No wonder Robert Alden wrote, “The third chapter of Job must be one of the most depressing chapters in the Bible; few sermons are made from this chapter; few verses are claimed as promises and few are remembered for their warmth . . . it [may very well be] the lowest point in the Book.” 

Quoted in Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (W Publishing Group, 2004), p. 61

The truth is, Job;

  • has arrived at that point: where he can’t see any good reason or explanation for his trials;
  • he doesn’t have any idea what to do next;
  • he doesn’t see any end to his suffering
  • he assumes that God has abandoned him and for no good reason. 
  • On top of it all, Job can see no escape or exit door out of his suffering and pain.

The prophet Jeremiah reached the bottom of that same pit and he also said, “Cursed be the day I was born!  Let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me!  Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, ‘A baby boy has been born to you!’  Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow.” (Jeremiah 20:15 & 18)

In this first section of Job’s lamentation, you also notice the repeated use of words for darkness (v. 4);  darkness and black gloom(v. 5); let darkness seize it (v. 6); and in verse 9, let the stars of its twilight be darkened.

I have read the stories of two people who suffered greatly and I found it interesting that they both wanted to be left alone in the dark.

One of them was Joni Erickson Tada who, after becoming paralyzed from the neck down, lying in a hospital bed that was flipped over every three hours with her sort of strapped into the bed to keep her from falling to the ground – but there she sort of hung suspended, face down, looking directly into the tiles of her hospital room floor – three hours at a time.  Until she finally demanded that everyone leave and the lights be turned out – she wanted to be left alone in the dark.

That’s what you do when you hit rock bottom.

Job even suggests that someone conjur up Leviathan in verse 8  - the great sea monster, Isaiah called the dragon of the sea.  Superstitions abounded regarding this great creature, now extinct – superstitions that this monster could rise up and swallow the sun – Job says, “if it were really true, then conjure up Leviathan to swallow the day I was born from ever having taken place.”

Adpated from Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks (Evangelical Press, 1995), p. 62.

2)  The second section of Job’s lament is no more hopeful than the first.

Job in affect says, “Okay, since I can’t turn back the clock and not be born, I wish I had at least been stillborn.”

Verse 11, Why did I not die at birth?  Come forth from the womb and expire?  Why did the knees receive me?

That phrase does not refer to a mother welcoming her newborn, it refers to the father placing the child on his lap and blessing it before God.

Job says, “Why did I have to be conceived and birthed and blessed and fed?”

Why couldn’t I just have died and been spared all this misery.

One of the dominant themes of this second section is Job’s desire for rest.  He’s literally exhausted physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Notice verse 13, “For now I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept then, I would have been at rest.

In death, verse 17, the wicked cease from raging, and there the weary are at rest.  [Even] the prisoners are at ease together; they do not hear the voice of their taskmaster.

I’m tired . . . I just want rest from this trouble . . . I need relief from my sorrow . . . I need rescuing from someone, anyone.

3)  The third section which begins with verse 20 can be simply entitled, “I just want to die now!”

Notice verse 20, Why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul, who longs for death but there is none, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures.”

In other words, a casket would be better than a buried treasure chest.

Death is a treasure to Job – in his mind it would be better than gold.

By the way, this is not a cry of defiance against God – it is a cry of despair to God.

Roy Zuck, Job (Moody Press, 1978), p. 27

Job is not doubting the existence of God, in fact he refers several times to God – in fact he assumes God is the one who has boxed him in with all this suffering. 

He isn’t talking about ending his life, he’s wanting God to take his life – and there’s a vast difference in those two desires.

Both want life to end, but one leaves it up to God and the other takes matters into their own hands.

Maybe your listening to this sermon and you’re thinking, “Wow, I thought I had it bad . . . I thought I was suffering and I was depressed, but not after Job chapter 3.”  I’m better off than I thought!

Maybe you’re listening and you’re thinking, “I know exactly what Job is talking about . . . I think I know just how he feels.  Heroes of the faith aren’t supposed to talk like this so I’ve kept quiet . . . but Job has spoken for me.

The truth is, if someone with the character and integrity and faith can hit bottom, so can we and we probably have at some point or another.

Is it any wonder why so many people through the ages have turned to the Book of Job when they themselves hit rock bottom.

Joni Erickson Tada has written, “As I lay immobilized in the hospital, my mind swirled with questions.  When I learned that my paralysis was going to be permanent, I was desperate for answers.  One of the first places I turned after my diving accident was to the book of Job. 

Derek Thomas, p. 64

Let’s make some applications from the speech of one of our heroes of the faith who went through the valley of despair.

Even for the strongest believer:

  1. There will be seasons when you believe you are hopelessly bound to suffering.

In verse 23, Job says that God has hedged him in.  The same word was used by Satan in chapter 1:10 when he said that God had hedged Job about so that bad things would never happen to him.  Now Job says that God has hedged me in so that I cannot get away from bad things.

The sign on the doorway of my life says, “No escape . . . no way out.”

  1. There will be times when solitude is preferred to fellowship;

Now, I’m neither defending or suggesting this as a course of action.  In fact, by doing so your depression and despair may take even longer to hurdle.  But this will be the path you may very well travel as you struggle with the fact that the will of God hurts.

 

  1. There will be episodes when anger replaces praise;
  2. There will be periods when resentment overshadows trust.
  3. There will be moments when despair replaces hope;

One author wrote, “The true believer does not always rise from his knees full of encouragement and fresh hope.  There are times when you may remain down in the dumps and yet still have prayed well.” 

Mason, p. 56


Are there any solutions . . . is there a way to surface after you’ve hit rock bottom?

Let me provide 3 or 4 to get you thinking along Biblical lines.

Solutions for those in the darkness of despair:

  1. Accept only those thoughts about God that are clearly supported by scripture;

Destroy ever speculation . . . every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians in chapter 10: 5. 

Take every thought into captivity . . . run every thought through the scanner – make sure the baggage isn’t carrying into the mind dangerous things . . . your mind is where the battle is fought . . . guard it well.

When C. S. Lewis was losing his wife to cancer, he wrote, “I am not in danger of ceasing to believe in God.  The real danger is to believe terrible things about God.  The conclusion I dread is not, “So there’s not God after all.” But “So this is what God is really like?”

Quoted in Derek Thomas, p. 67

  1. Refuse the counsel of others including your own personal feelings that doubt the sovereign plan of God;

This was the downfall of Eve who believed that God was keeping from her what was best and the Israelites who were convinced that God was not worth following in the wilderness.

Suffering makes us forget the joys of the past and convinces us of the hopelessness of the future.

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient (Victor Books, 1991), p. 22

Any feelings that drive you deeper into that pit . . . any counsel that raises doubt about your past, present and future not being under the sway of the sovereign is false counsel and wayward emotion.

  1. Cultivate a deeper love and taste for sacred substance;

It might be the assembly . . . when you hit rock bottom you will be tempted to avoid it;

It might be the scriptures . . . when you hit rock bottom you are tempted to neglect it;

It might be the friendship of another believer . . . when you hit rock bottom you will be tempted to refuse it,

Instead you will be open to developing a habit for the unhealthy things of life that only add to your misery.

Some of you are watching shows that will only add to your misery;

If you’re struggling with financial problems – don’t sit down and watch the National Poker championships – as if there was a time when you should.

If you’re wrestling with issues in your marriage – don’t go to EHarmony’s website and read the testimonials of people who found the perfect person – they’re all saying, “I found someone just like me.”  Since when was that a good thing?  You find someone just like you, you have only doubled your problems. 

Here’s a radical thought – if you’re struggling with the troubles of life, stop listening to secular music – listen to Christian music.  I made a decision in college to not listen to or purchase secular music outside of classical music and that is one decision I’ve never regretted. 

The tunes I like that dance around in my mind – well, the tunes I like don’t necessarily dance – the tunes that move slowly through my head have spiritual lyrics . . . they offer sound advice . . . they sing of Christ and hope.

Cultivate a deeper love and taste for sacred substance even before you hit rock bottom, so that when you’re down there, you’ll have some resources to draw upon.

  1. Remember you’re not the first believer to suffer such grief that you wanted to be left alone.

Take heart . . . you’re not the only one to walk through such deep sorrow that you want the lights turned out . . . and be left alone.

 

One author made this great connection to Christ – who was portrayed for us in the Gospels as one “made like his brothers in every way” (Heb. 2:17). He of whom it is written that he was “deeply distressed and troubled… overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:33-34).  As B. B. Warfield comments on this passage: “In these moments our Lord [experienced] the ultimate depths of human anguish, and vindicated by the intensity of his mental sufferings the right to [be called] The Man of Sorrows.  

Quoted by Derek Thomas, online @ monergism.com

  1. Give what little energy you have to something that brings help and hope to others.

I’ve referred already to Joni Erickson Tada – some of her story is recorded in a book edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor entitled, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.”

Joni provided chapter 9 of that book and she wrote, Trapped facedown, staring at the floor hour and four, my thoughts grew dark and hopeless.  All I could think was, God, I prayed for a closer walk with You; if this is your idea of an answer to prayer, I am never going to trust you with another prayer again.  I can’t believe that I have to lie facedown and do nothing but count the tiles on the floor of this torture rack.  I hate my existence.  I asked the hospital staff to turn out the lights, close the blinds and close the door. 

She writes how a friend came and listened to her rant and rave and cry.  Then she put a Bible on a little stool in front of her and a turned to Psalm 18, which read, “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help.” 

Now, years later, Joni is determined to provide an estimated 18 million wheelchairs to the disabled around the world, along with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not too long ago she got an email from a woman named Beverly who wrote;

Dear Joni,

I’m out of hope.  But I am wondering if you might be able to help my husband, Ron, who was in an accident last year that left him a quadriplegic.  He’s a pastor, and he continued to [work] for a time, but now, he resigned.  He no longer wants to get out of bed. He doesn’t talk.  He doesn’t want the lights on in his room and no TV.  He doesn’t want to live and he doesn’t care about our family anymore.  We all seem to be falling through the cracks.  My husband feels useless and hopeless.  We need help.

I responded by calling information and tracking down Ron and Beverly and I gave them a call.  Beverly answered and [after sharing and praying with her] I asked if I could talk to Ron.

She knocked on his door and he let her tuck the phone under his ear.  And although he would not respond, I talked a little bit of shop about quadriplegia. 

I wanted to move beyond those topics, however, and bridge the conversation to spiritual things.  So I started to share favorite Scriptures that have sustained me through the toughest of times like Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  Silence on the other end.  I even sang to him.  Nothing.

Finally, I did not only thing I could think of that I hadn’t already tired.  I asked Ron if he had ever seen a movie called The Shawshank Redemption.  “Why, yes, I have,” he said.  I couldn’t believe it – Ron had responded.  “Well, Ron, do you remember when Red found Andy’s letter?  Do you remember what it said?”  “I think so . . . um, “Hope is a good thing . . . and no good thing ever dies.” 

Jon said, “Ron, there are ten thousand other quadriplegics like you and me across America . . . and all of them were lying in bed this morning wondering whether or not they should get busy living or get busy dying.  Ron, I’m going to make a choice to get busy living.  Do you want to join me today?”

He said, “Yes, ma’am, Yes, I do.”

Last she heard, Ron and Beverly were active in sharing their testimony to everyone, preaching far and near.

Adapted from Piper/Taylor, p. 192

He’d hit rock bottom . . . but he’d surfaced with hope

He’d decided to get busy with living.  And help others surface from their own episode when they hit rock bottom too.

  • Accept only those thoughts about God that are clearly supported by scripture;
  • Refuse the counsel of others including your own personal feelings that doubt the sovereign plan of God;
  • Cultivate a deeper love and taste for sacred substance;
  • Remember you’re not the first believer to suffer such grief that you wanted to be left alone.
  • Give what little energy you have to something that brings help and hope to others.

And remember Job . . . he thought he was forgotten.  He had no idea that he was not only in the full view of God, but that he would actually be remembered by millions of believers throughout the course of human history.

And in remembering him, discover a true hero of the faith – and redefine heroism . . . and through his struggles, and in His living Lord, find hope.

Add a Comment