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Suffering & Death

"Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave” (Job 10:18).

If Job had access to Dignitas, would he have used it? He certainly yearns for relief in death yet knows that it is God's prerogative to give and take life. His yearning is deeper than mere death, it is a yearning to have never been alive – to undo his own being. His desperation is, in part, the utter hopelessness of being unable to die or to undo his life: “Let the day perish on which I was born... why did I not die at birth... for then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest” (Job 3:3,11-13).

For the sufferer, death is not taboo; it is present in fear and in hope. Perhaps this partly explains Job's friends' attempt to silence Job. Perhaps they are confronted too vigorously with their own mortality, as a pair of comedic philosophers once quipped, “how can we enjoy life with the clock ticking so loudly in our ear?”1 If Job would just be quiet, perhaps we could all think about something else.

Warren McWilliams notes that few suicides are recorded in scripture (Saul, Samson and Judas being exceptions). However, Job is not alone in wishing for his own demise. The writer of Ecclesiastes at one time hated his own life (Ecc 2:17), Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth (Jer 20:14), Elijah prays for his own death (1 Kings 19:4) and Jonah wishes to die in the wake of the repentance of Ninevah (Jonah 4:3).

McWilliams suggests that the best help for one who feels suicidal is the physical presence of people.2 Perhaps, even while Job's friends turned out to offend Job and to be fairly useless, God sent them to be present with Job while he was not. A sufferer needs even the worst of comforters rather than solitude. In solitude one hears one's own clock and seeks to stop it ticking.

1Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Clien, Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates (Viking, 2009), 5.
2Warren McWilliams Where is the God of Justice? (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), 153.