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How to Overcome Despair

There once was a man who suffered money and health problems. His problems were so bad he lost all hope and became convinced things would never get better. Do you relate to this despair? Are you without hope? Do you know someone else who has lost all hope?

Thanks for watching this episode of Bible Mountain dotcom. This episode is part of a series of studies in the book of Job called “Why do people suffer?” Today we’re going to study Job 9-10 and learn how to overcome despair when we are suffering. Before we get started, let’s review the first eight chapters of Job.

Chapter 1 tells us Job was blameless, upright, and very wealthy, but then Satan came along and killed Job’s children and destroyed everything he owned. Chapter 2 tells us Satan afflicted Job with boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head, at which time Job’s three friends came to sympathize with Job and comfort him. Chapter 3 tells us Job told his friends he was in so much agony he wanted to die, because he saw no point in living if he was going to suffer the way he was suffering. Chapters 4 and 5 tell us Eliphaz told Job he was suffering because of sin and that he should repent and then things would be okay. Chapters 6 and 7 tell us Job insisted he was suffering because God was against him for some unknown reason. And chapter 8 tells us Bildad repeated Eliphaz’s belief that Job should repent and then everything would be okay.

And that brings us to Job 9 and 10. In this passage, Job proclaimed his innocence and expressed his despair and his desire to die. After we read this passage, we will learn how to overcome the type of despair Job felt.

Job 9:1   Then Job answered,

Job 9:2 “In truth I[Job] know that this is so;

But how can a man be in the right before God?

Notice the word “answered”. Notice the word “this”. In truth I know that this is so”. Let’s review what Job was referring to when he used the word “this”. He was referring back to some comments Bildad had made. Bildad said, and this is a summary of Job chapter 8,

God is just.

Job’s sons died because they were sinners.

The godless do not prosper.

If Job repents, then he will prosper.

It was at this point Job said,

Job 9:2 “In truth I[Job] know that this is so;

But how can a man be in the right before God?

In other words, Job agreed with Bildad’s premise that the godless do not prosper and that the righteous do prosper; however, he legitimately questioned the idea that there is such a thing as a man who is right before God. All of chapters nine and ten is a discourse in which Job elaborated on this idea. Job threw in some other ideas, but for the most part, he repeated and expanded this thought.

  • The Suicide of American ChristianityThe Suicide of American Christianity
Remember, this is Hebrew poetry, which is different than English poetry. English poetry is all about rhyme. Hebrew poetry is all about parallelism. There is synonymous parallelism in which the same idea is stated two or more times using different words. There is antithetic parallelism in which two or more thoughts are contrasted. And there is synthetic parallelism in which an idea is stated and then expanded. So as we read, remember Job was repeating and expanding this idea that only righteous men prosper, but it is not possible for man to be righteous. Also, think about the hopelessness, and despair that Job expressed.

Here’s a little reminder regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. Job was not inspired by God when he made these statements. The author of Job was inspired when he recorded these statements. Therefore, inerrancy means the author inerrantly recorded what Job said, but that doesn’t mean Job was correct in what he said.

Job 9:1 Then Job answered,

Job 9:2 “In truth I[Job] know that this is so;

But how can a man be in the right before God?

Job 9:3 “If one wished to dispute with Him[God],

He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

Notice the hopelessness in this statement.

Job 9:4 “Wise in heart and mighty in strength,

Who has defied Him[God] without harm?

Job 9:5 “It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,

When He overturns them in His anger;

In this and the next several verses, Job made statements about God’s strength. Keep in mind Job was not inspired when he said this, so these verses don’t tell us what to believe about God; instead, they tell us whether or not Job had a correct understanding of God.

Job 9:6 Who[God] shakes the earth out of its place,

And its pillars tremble;

Job 9:7 Who[God] commands the sun not to shine,

And sets a seal upon the stars;

Job 9:8 Who[God] alone stretches out the heavens

And tramples down the waves of the sea;

Job 9:9 Who[God] makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades,

And the chambers of the south;

Job 9:10 Who[God] does great things, unfathomable,

And wondrous works without number.

Job 9:11 “Were He[God] to pass by me[Job], I would not see Him;

Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.

Job 9:12 “Were He[God] to snatch away, who could restrain Him?

Who could say to Him,

‘What are You doing?’

Job 9:13 “God will not turn back His anger;

Beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab.

Job 9:14 “How then can I[Job] answer Him[God],

And choose my words before Him?

Job 9:15 “For though I[Job] were right, I could not answer;

I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.

Again, notice the hopelessness.

Job 9:16 “If I[Job] called and He[God] answered me,

I could not believe that He was listening to my voice.

Job 9:17 “For He[God] bruises me[Job] with a tempest

And multiplies my wounds without cause.

Job 9:18 “He[God] will not allow me[Job] to get my breath,

But saturates me with bitterness.

Notice the despair.

Job 9:19 “If it is a matter of power, behold, He[God] is the strong one!

And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him?

Job 9:20 “Though I[Job] am righteous, my mouth will condemn me;

Though I am guiltless, He[God] will declare me guilty.

Job 9:21 “I[Job] am guiltless;

I do not take notice of myself;

I despise my life.

Think about the despair Job had to have felt in order to despise his life.

Job 9:22 “It is all one; therefore I[Job] say,

‘He[God] destroys the guiltless and the wicked.’

Here is another example of hopelessness.

Job 9:23 “If the scourge kills suddenly,

He[God] mocks the despair of the innocent.

This is hopelessness regarding those who are in despair.

Job 9:24 “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;

He[God] covers the faces of its judges.

If it is not He[God], then who is it?

Job 9:25   “Now my[Job] days are swifter than a runner;

They flee away, they see no good.

Job 9:26 “They[Job’s days] slip by like reed boats,

Like an eagle that swoops on its prey.

Job 9:27 “Though I[Job] say,

‘I will forget my complaint,

I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful,’

Job 9:28 I[Job] am afraid of all my pains,

I know that You[God] will not acquit me.

Job 9:29 “I[Job] am accounted wicked,

Why then should I toil in vain?

Job 9:30 “If I[Job] should wash myself with snow

And cleanse my hands with lye,

Job 9:31 Yet You[God] would plunge me[Job] into the pit,

And my own clothes would abhor me.

Job 9:32 “For He[God] is not a man as I[Job] am that I may answer Him,

That we may go to court together.

Job 9:33 “There is no umpire between us[God and Job],

Who may lay his hand upon us both.

Job 9:34 “Let Him[God] remove His rod from me[Job],

And let not dread of Him terrify me.

Job 9:35 “Then I[Job] would speak and not fear Him[God];

But I am not like that in myself.

Job 10:1   “I[Job] loathe my own life;

I will give full vent to my complaint;

I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

Notice the words loathe, complaint, and bitterness. These words are consistent with despair and hopelessness.

Job 10:2 “I[Job] will say to God,

‘Do not condemn me;

Let me know why You contend with me.

Job 10:3 ‘Is it right for You[God] indeed to oppress,

To reject the labor of Your hands,

And to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?

Job 10:4 ‘Have You[God] eyes of flesh?

Or do You see as a man sees?

Job 10:5 ‘Are Your[God’s] days as the days of a mortal,

Or Your years as man’s years,

Job 10:6 That You[God] should seek for my[Job’s] guilt

And search after my sin?

Job 10:7 ‘According to Your[God’s] knowledge I[Job] am indeed not guilty,

Yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.

Job 10:8   ‘Your[God’s] hands fashioned and made me[Job] altogether,

And would You destroy me?

Job 10:9 ‘Remember now, that You[God] have made me[Job] as clay;

And would You turn me into dust again?

Job 10:10 ‘Did You[God] not pour me[Job] out like milk

And curdle me like cheese;

Job 10:11 Clothe me[Job] with skin and flesh,

And knit me together with bones and sinews?

Job 10:12 ‘You[God] have granted me[Job] life and lovingkindness;

And Your care has preserved my spirit.

Job 10:13 ‘Yet these things You[God] have concealed in Your heart;

I[Job] know that this is within You:

Job 10:14 If I[Job] sin, then You[God] would take note of me,

And would not acquit me of my guilt.

Job 10:15 ‘If I[Job] am wicked, woe to me!

And if I am righteous, I dare not lift up my head.

I am sated with disgrace and conscious of my misery.

Notice the words disgrace, and misery.

Job 10:16 ‘Should my[Job’s] head be lifted up, You[God] would hunt me like a lion;

And again You would show Your power against me.

Job 10:17 ‘You[God] renew Your witnesses against me[Job]

And increase Your anger toward me;

Hardship after hardship is with me.

Job 10:18   ‘Why then have You[God] brought me[Job] out of the womb?

Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!

Job 10:19 ‘I[Job] should have been as though I had not been,

Carried from womb to tomb.’

  • The Suicide of American ChristianityThe Suicide of American Christianity
Here Job was wishing he had never existed which is the ultimate expression of despair and hopelessness.

Job 10:20 “Would He[God] not let my[Job] few days alone?

Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer

Job 10:21 Before I[Job] go — and I shall not return —

To the land of darkness and deep shadow,

Job 10:22 The land of utter gloom as darkness itself,

Of deep shadow without order,

And which shines as the darkness.”

And that is the end of Job’s discourse. Again, there was a lot of despair and hopelessness in Job’s words. Verses like

Job 9:3 “If one wished to dispute with Him[God],

He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

Job 9:20 “Though I[Job] am righteous, my mouth will condemn me;

Though I am guiltless, He[God] will declare me guilty.

Job 9:22 ‘He[God] destroys the guiltless and the wicked.’

Job 10:1   “I[Job] loathe my own life;

I will give full vent to my complaint;

I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

Job 10:18   ‘Why then have You[God] brought me[Job] out of the womb?

Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!

Job 10:19 ‘I[Job] should have been as though I had not been,

Carried from womb to tomb.’

Not everyone experiences the depth of despair that Job experienced, but I believe most of us have experienced some form of despair at some point in our lives. How do we overcome despair? And if our despair is so deep we start to wish we were dead, how do we overcome that?

First, we have to understand the opposite of despair is hope. So in order to overcome despair, we need to have hope. How do we develop hope? Let’s look at Romans 15:4.

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Notice the last word: hope. This verse tells us how to have hope. Notice the phrase “written in earlier times”. Romans 15:4 was written in the first century AD at the same time the rest of the New Testament was being written. “Earlier times” referred to the centuries before the birth of Christ so the phrase “whatever was written in earlier times” referred to the writings we know as the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written for our instruction. This is a very strong argument that we need to read and learn the Old Testament. Notice the words “so that”. The Old Testament was written so that through perseverance we might have hope, and so that through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Let me give some examples.

The Old Testament tells us about Joseph. Joseph was born into a wealthy family, but then he was sold by his brothers into slavery and thought he would never see his family again. After rising out of slavery he was falsely accused and thrown into jail. Eventually he was released from jail and became second in command of Egypt. Also, Joseph did see his family again. Joseph’s rise from his despair gives us hope that our despair will not last forever.

The Old Testament tells us about Moses. Moses grew up in the court of Pharaoh. At age 40 he committed murder and had to flee for his life. He spent the next 40 years living in the wilderness tending sheep. How many times might Moses have felt despair during those 40 years? Eventually, Moses went back to Egypt and led the Israelites out of slavery. Moses’ rise out of his despair gives us hope that our despair will not last forever.

One of the books of the Old Testament is the book of Judges. The book of Judges records multiple instances when the Israelites were in despair because of oppression and God delivered them. The Israelites’ rise out of their despair gives us hope that our despair will not last forever.

The Old Testament tells us about David. David was anointed the next King of Israel, but for years King Saul pursued him and tried to kill him. David expressed his despair in writing and we can read about it in the Old Testament book of Psalms. Eventually David became king. David’s rise out of his despair gives us hope that our despair will not last forever.

And the Old Testament tells us about Job. Job was very wealthy, but then he lost everything and was afflicted with boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Job was in such despair he wanted to die. Eventually Job regained his health and his wealth. Job’s rise out of his despair gives us hope that our despair will not last forever.

All these Old Testament stories illustrate Romans 15:4.

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Let’s look at Romans 5:3-4.

Rom. 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

Rom. 5:4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

Tribulation leads to hope.

How do we overcome despair? We need to remind ourselves that persevering through despair improves our character and results in hope. One way to remind ourselves of this is to read the many Old Testament illustrations of godly men persevering through their despair and rising out of that despair. Let me close with James 1:12.

James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Trials and tribulations are difficult and naturally lead to despair, but we should have hope because trials and tribulations make us better people, and our despair will not last forever.

 

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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