Chapters 29 through 31 contain the last of Job’s long speeches. Here he expresses his longing for the happy past. (29:2) Who would not feel this way in his condition? Job says, “the pain that gnaws me takes no rest” (30:17) and “My skin turns black and falls from me.” (30:30) What are we to say in the face of such unrelenting suffering?
C. S. Lewis has a good word about this in his book, The Problem of Pain….
All arguments in justification of suffering provoke bitter resentment against the author. You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess, for I will tell you; I am a great coward. But what is that to the purpose? When I think of pain—of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacal movement a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures—it “quite o’ercrows my spirit.” If I knew of any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it. But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours. I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made “perfect through suffering” is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design.
So what do you think? Is Job made perfect through suffering? I suppose we shall have to wait to the end of the story to see.
In chapter 31, Job expresses his longing for justice: “let me be weighed in a just balance”. (31:6) In fact, throughout the entire chapter he calls curses down upon his own head if he has done anything wrong. With this, Job’s long speeches are ended, though he will have a little more to say towards the end of the book.
Chapter 32 introduces us to a new character: Elihu, a young man who has been a silent witness to Job’s suffering and the speeches of his three counselors. This section of the story has probably been added by another hand, for without Elihu’s speech the story would stand complete on its own. However, with this addition, Elihu’s speech prepares the way for God’s words at the end of the story.
Elihu has kept silent up until this point because he is young and wants to show respect for the old and therefore allow them to speak first. However, he finds the speeches of Job’s “friends” lacking. Thus, now he is dying to speak. “For I am full of words, the spirit within me constrains me.” (32:18) This is probably a sign to Elihu that he should not speak. The one who is anxious to speak into a situation of suffering probably does not know what he is about. How much better to sit in silence, to hold the hand of the sufferer, or, as Job does: to raise questions. Is it not interesting that Job is the only one in this story who asks questions to which he does not think he has the answer? Job has the only truly inquiring mind of the bunch.
C. S. Lewis wrote these words to the priest who performed the wedding ceremony for he and his wife at her hospital bedside….
Joy says (do you agree?) that we needn’t be too afraid of questionings and expostulations; it was the impatience of Job not the theodicies of Elihu that were pleasing to God. Does He like us to “stand up to Him” a bit? Certainly He cannot like mere flattery—resentment masquerading as submission thru fear.
Personally, I think the Lord appreciates some of our questions better than some of our misplaced preaching.