Job chapter 3 is a dark chapter. It is the darkest chapter in the book of Job and it’s on the short list of the darkest chapters in all of Scripture. “So, why read this chapter?” you are most likely thinking. I get it. I’m not drawn to chapters that are dark and depressing. I go to Scripture to avoid dark and depressing things not to be reminded of them. But I came across this chapter recently when I had the privilege to preach a sermon in our church’s series on Job.
So why start my day reading and reflecting on Job’s deep anguish of heart? Well, in his excellent commentary on Job, Christopher Ash tells us why this would be a wise read:
“A true Christian believer may be taken by God through times of deep and dark despair. He or she may be taken through this darkness even though he or she has not fallen into sin or backslidden from faith in Jesus Christ. This is a very important truth.”
This is a very important truth indeed. However in my experience many Christians are ignorant of this truth and therefore vulnerable to all manner of temptation to think hard thoughts of God when he takes them through a season of darkness. And one doesn’t have to suffer like Job to experience a season of darkness, although suffering is often accompanied by the darkness we hear in Job’s voice in chapter 3. Actually Job’s darkness and lament can become unexpectedly encouraging, particularly if one hasn’t been informed that a genuine believer may be taken by God through a time of deep and dark despair. If God takes a Christian through a season of darkness there is always a purpose and that darkness provides an opportunity. Tim Keller explains why and how a season of darkness can become a redemptive opportunity:
“In the darkness we have a choice that is not really there in better times. We can choose to serve God just because he is God. In the darkest moments we feel we are getting absolutely nothing out of God or out of our relationship to him. But what if then—when it does not seem to be paying or benefitting you at all—you continue to obey, pray to, and seek God, as well as continue to do your duties of love to others? If we do that—we are finally learning to love God for himself, and not for his benefits. And when the darkness lifts or lessens, we will find that our dependence on other things besides God for our happiness has shrunk, and that we have a new strength and contentment in God himself. We’ll find a new fortitude, unflappability, poise, and peace in the face of difficulty.”
So this dark chapter in Job can unexpectedly become a means of hope and grace-empowered resolve to “serve God just because he is God.” Job 3 will prepare you for suffering or a season of darkness and it will sustain you in the midst of painful suffering and perplexing darkness.
One more thing. Though Job 3 is one of the darkest chapters in all of Scripture its not the darkest place in all of Scripture. It does, however, point to the darkest place. That place would be a hill called Calvary where the one who “exceeded Job in innocence and grief” uniquely suffered in our place for our sin. He endured this darkness so that the last word over our lives won’t be darkness.