Job has a reputation for “patience,” but if your idea of patience is the calm acceptance of what is, you will note Job does not qualify as a patient man by the end of chapter 3. It’s not really that Job wishes he was dead. It’s more along the lines of “I wish I’d never been born.”
Chapter three leads me to several “wonderings.”
First, I wonder how God felt about Job. When Job tells his wife “shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” he sounds so pious. But in chapter three, despite all the blessing Job has received from the Lord, Job wishes he had never seen those blessings. It’s as if he’s throwing them all back at God, wishing he’d never been the receiver of the Lord’s largess. He sounds pretty ungrateful.
Second, I wonder how much Job knew about the afterlife. He seems to have some idea that life does not end with earthly existence. In death, “the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout. The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners.” It is foolish, I think, to imagine that Job is talking about nonexistence. There is no enjoyment of ease if one does not exist at all.
Third, I wonder about the last two verses. All that good Job enjoyed; did he really have those times when, as good as it was, he expected at any moment the “other shoe to fall” and everything be lost? It surely sounds that way.
In these things, Job is like us all. He faces this calamity with the weakness of everyman, vacillating between piety and feeling sorry for himself, thinking about death, and revealing that even when things were good, his thoughts were not always those of the faithful. This book is for us all. Eugene Peterson writes: “Almost all of us in our growing up years have the experience of disobeying our parents and getting punished for it. When that discipline was connected with wrongdoing, it had a certain sense of justice to it: “When we do wrong, we get punished”.
One of the surprises as we get older, however, is that we come to see that there is no real correlation between the amount of wrong we commit and the amount of pain we experience. An even larger surprise is that very often there is something quite the opposite: we do right and get knocked down. We do the best we are capable of doing, and just as we are reaching out to receive our reward we are hit from the blind side and sent reeling.”
How shall we handle life when we’re handed a raw deal? Job doesn’t present options. He just presents how one man handled it. Whatever we see of Job, good or ill (and there will be some ill), we must remember that no matter how Job felt or talked, through his painful screaming at God, he was still talking to God. His dogged determination to stick with the Lord is really what patience is all about.