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William lost his mother when he was six years old and never quite got over her death. Fifty-three years later, when someone sent him a portrait of her, he responded by writing a poem:

I heard the bell toll on thy burial day,

I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,

and turning from my nursery window, drew,

a long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!

William’s father sent him to boarding school after his mother’s death, where, for years, he was cruelly bullied. His fiancée’s father later forbade the marriage after a two-year engagement. He suffered repeated episodes of deep depression and wrote, “I was struck with such a dejection of spirits, as none but they who have felt the same, can have the least conception of. Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, and rising up in despair.”

At age 31, he suffered a severe mental breakdown and three times attempted suicide. Committed to a psychiatric facility, he met an evangelical Christian who shared the gospel with him. God wonderfully saved him, and he experienced real, glorious change. But it was not the end of his darkness.

He underwent at least four more episodes of deep depression and, shortly before his death, he said, “I feel unutterable despair.” This was the same William—William Cowper—who gave us such glorious hymns as “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” He believed the gospel, yet battled deep darkness.

Job could relate. After suffering unimaginable loss, as recorded in the opening two chapters, he finally broke silence in chapter 3. In doing so, he uttered one of the deepest lamentations in all of Scripture. Job’s lament in this chapter unveils the folly of happy-clappy, triumphalistic Christianity. The same man who glorious declared, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21) and asked, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10) also cursed the day of his birth and wished he had never been born.

Christopher Ash highlights two key aspects of Job’s lament, which help us to understand the utter darkness that consumed him.

First, in his darkness, Job could only look back. In this chapter, there is no forward looking—no future hope. He could only lament all the affliction that had befallen him.

Second, in his darkness, Job could find no rest. Unlike some of the other chapters in this book, Job could not seem to find any glimmer of hope in his darkness. His lament does not end with a glorious, Habakkuk-like cry of faith. It’s all restless darkness. But it is deeply honest.

As we reflect on Job’s bitter lament, we should pause to consider at least four important truths.

First, we must recognise that genuine believers may go through times of desperate depression. No one would call Job’s faith into question despite his darkness. We must be careful of questioning a person’s profession to faith because they experience deep darkness.

Second, affliction is no sure evidence that someone is not a believer, or that they have somehow sinned against God despite their belief. Job was a blameless believer who experienced suffering beyond what most of us can imagine. It is possible for a believer, who has not sinned, to face utter dereliction from God’s hand.

Third, be prepared that your close walk with Christ may result in you walking through times of deep darkness—perhaps even deeper than if you had compromised in your walk with him. It was because Job was so upright that he faced such affliction.

Fourth, learn from Job’s affliction how to weep with those who weep. It is a sad reality, which has been noted by many, that Job’s friends were at their best in 2:11–13—when they were silent. Their folly begins to unfold in chapter 4. Often, people who are in deep despair don’t need our words of wisdom as much as they need to know that we mourn with them.

As you reflect on Job 3 this morning, ask God to help you learn these lessons, so that you will not condemn those who suffer affliction but, prepared to face affliction yourself, will learn to weep with those who weep.