Intense suffering can drive even a godly person like Job to despair. Many of us have been there ourselves and too often found no one who could understand and encourage us. This is why the divinely inspired book of Job is so important to us and all suffering people.
Chapter 3 begins the poetic portion of the book of Job, which will continue all the way through chapter 42 and verse 6. Chapter 3 also begins three cycles of dialogue; each cycle includes speeches by Job and each of his three friends.
You might remember that Job’s three friends have been sitting quietly with him out there in the garbage dump where the trash was burned to ashes—and they have been there with him for seven days. Now finally, Job speaks, and he pours out his heart with bitter anguish and hopelessness. His despair has brought him to the point that he no longer wants to live.
One author described this third chapter of Job as “one of the most depressing chapters in all the Bible”; few sermons are made from this chapter; few verses are memorized or remembered for their warmth. It may very well be the lowest point in the book of Job.
Job’s suffering has brought him to the bottom of the pit; he has reached the valley of despair.
Maybe you have been where Job is here. Maybe you’re there right now. Beloved, that is why this book is so important and why God preserved it for us all these centuries. Anybody struggling with pain and sorrow wants answers. Well, stick with me through this book, because Job’s experience will point us all in the right direction.
Job’s opening speech can be summarized very simply: He sees death as preferable to his suffering. In fact, he says here in verse 3, “Let the day perish on which I was born.”
In verse 11 he says the same thing: “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” This is not exactly the kind of verse you are going to memorize and put on the dash of your car as you head to work. But maybe you have the same feelings as Job, who says here in verse 26, “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
Job’s attitude is, “All I have in life is trouble. What’s the use in living?”
Well, with that, chapter 4 opens, and we have the first counsel from Eliphaz the Temanite, probably the oldest of Job’s friends. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Well honeycombed words are the last thing Job is going to hear from Eliphaz.
Eliphaz begins by noting that in the past Job had corrected and instructed and counseled many people who had stumbled in life. Then he says in verse 5, “But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” In other words, “You are in a fix now, and you have to be willing to take your own medicine.”
And what is the medicine? Well, as far as Eliphaz is concerned, Job is suffering because he has sinned. He is simply reaping the consequences of his wrongdoing. Eliphaz says to Job here in verse 7, “Who that was innocent ever perished … where were the upright cut off?”
By the way, this will be the central argument of all three friends of Job: “Job, you are suffering greatly because you evidently have sinned greatly.”
And where is the evidence of his sin? Eliphaz claims that God gave it to him in a vision (verses 13-21). Let me tell you something, beloved, when anyone claims some kind of special revelation from God to try to manage your life, you need to lace up your shoes and run; don’t even bother listening.
Eliphaz makes two mistakes here in his counseling. First, he assumes that sin always brings suffering. And yes, sin canbring suffering, but not always—at first anyway. In fact, the psalmist wrote in Psalm 73:3, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” He was looking at people who were wicked, and life couldn’t have been better for them. Wicked people actually can prosper in this brief life.
Sin and suffering do not always go hand in hand. But because he believes that false principle, Eliphaz makes his second mistake by way of application. He assumes Job has sinned and is now suffering because of it.
However, we know from chapter 1 that Job is not suffering because he was ungodly; he’s suffering because he was godly. Satan has been allowed to attack this faithful man, not because he was sinning against God but because he was following God.
God already said of Job in chapter 2 and verse 3, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
Job then replies to Eliphaz in chapter 6. He sort of apologizes for his despair, saying in verse 3 that the weight of his suffering is “heavier than the sand of the sea.” And he goes on in the next verse to say, “The terrors of God are arrayed against me.” There is no escape from what God is doing in his life.
Now beginning at verse 14, Job appeals to his friends for compassion. He charges Eliphaz with being disloyal (verse 15), and he points out that his friends are now afraid to sympathize with him lest they bring God’s judgment on themselves (verse 21). He then ends by pleading for them to be careful not to jump to conclusions (verse 29).
Imagine this scene, beloved; here Job sits in the ashes, covered in boils, racked with pain, bereft of his children. He is financially bankrupt, his skin is oozing with running sores, he’s battling high fever, finding it difficult to breathe, and he’s being told by his friends, “You deserve every bit of this—and more.”
Job laments his misery in chapter 7, indicating that his physical condition is actually worsening. He says in verses 5-6:
“My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope.”
And with that, Job ignores his friends and effectively prays out loud, honestly and emotionally, here in verse 16, “I loathe my life … Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” In other words, “Since my life is short anyway, why let it linger on? God, why not let me die? The grave would be better than my painful life.”
There are no answers from God to this suffering, faithful believer, and Eliphaz has only added salt to his wounds with false accusations. The truth is, sometimes when we are at the lowest point in our lives, we don’t have any answers, and we don’t seem to have very many understanding friends.
What do we have today, beloved? We have the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We have the promise that a faithful God can handle all our anxieties because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We have the promise that God does hear our prayers (Psalm 69:33).
We may not have all the answers, but we have some promises that God is always at work on our behalf.
So based on the promises of God in His Word:
- When you think God doesn’t care—He does.
- When you feel life is hopeless—it isn’t.
- When you think you know better than God—you don’t.
- When you believe God hasn’t heard your cry—He has.
- When you conclude God isn’t present—He is.
- When you think God doesn’t love you—He always will.
 Robert L. Alden, quoted in Charles R. Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (Thomas Nelson, 2004), 61.