Days of Affliction
Most people know what it means to have a bad day. We usually interpret that to mean that multiple things have gone wrong, sometimes terribly wrong, one right after the other. It could be that you woke up sick, received bad news from work, or performed poorly on a test. It could be something far worse such as learning that a loved one has cancer, you just lost your job, or you had a fight with your spouse. A bad day could look like any of these things, but we have the luxury to consider them against the backdrop of many other good days. However, in some senses, this is what makes a bad day so difficult. We compare it to another time, perhaps another place, when life was sweeter, and we struggle to deal with the present.
Among other challenges Job faced during his time of trial was the complete reversal of his standing in the community. He had served as a respected leader, but the combination of his changed circumstances and the people’s popular attitudes toward them changed their opinion of his role. Where he previously had offered valued opinions, he now found himself the object of ridicule—including by the children of some of the least worthy members of society (Job 30:1-8). Indeed, Job summed up his treatment with the sad refrain, “And now I am their taunting song; Yes, I am their byword” (Job 30:9). Almost overnight, Job plummeted in public confidence from a leading member of society to be treated as the punchline of a joke. The emotional impact of such a turnaround must have been devastating. We often consider Job’s loss of family, loss of income, and loss of health, but rarely do we remember the tearful cry stemming from total social rejection. As Job reflected on his plight, he saw himself as a pitiful figure that others might properly reject—even though he had not changed at all inside (Job 30:10-15). These must truly have been days of affliction for Job (Job 30:16), when frustration only added to the other difficulties piling up all around (Job 30:17-26). Who could then blame him for his complaint, “My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; Days of affliction confront me” (Job 30:27). His was a sad, pitiable situation (Job 30:28-31).
Thankfully, we should never experience the combination of trials Job faced all at one time. However, no matter what type of difficulty you undergo, there will always be an emotional element to it that brings challenges to the heart that often last far beyond the tribulation of the moment. Indeed, sometimes mockery and rejection are at the heart of our trials. This is certainly true for many Christians living in an increasingly hostile environment. As Satan strengthens his hold on society, we may truly be entering our own version of “days of affliction.” Regardless, the message of the book of Job is that we can face the most uncertain days knowing the end of the Lord (Jas. 5:11).
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