The Story of Job: Why Did Job Curse the Day of His Birth?
By Mu Cheng
It is dusk, and a grey-haired old man was sitting by the ashes of his fire, his exposed skin densely covered in painful boils, the surface of the boils broken and suppurating in a horrifying scene.
The old man’s expression showed that he was extremely sorrowful, yet he remained silent and, picking up a potsherd, he began to scrape at the boils.
After a long while, he said, “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3).
“Cut! Cut! Yi Qian, you haven’t got the expression quite right. Job shouldn’t look that way….” The director frowned as he spoke fretfully to Yi Qian.
After listening to the director, Yi Qian thought to himself: “Job was a just man. He was tempted by Satan, he lost his property, lost his children and he lost herds of cattle and sheep, and yet he never complained against God. Instead, he praised God’s holy name. So why then, when his whole body broke out in painful boils, did he curse the day he was born? The life of man comes from God and we should give thanks to God for giving us life, including the day of our birth. We should not curse it. Could it be that Job was unable to endure the pain and was complaining about God? What was Job’s state of mind when he cursed the day of his own birth?” Yi Qian did not understand it just then, so he just took off his grey wig and said helplessly, “Director, don’t fret. I’ll reconsider it … I’ll reconsider it …”
“Great. Let’s leave it there for today. That’s a wrap! Everybody call it a day!”
Two months before, the director was preparing to shoot the film Taking You Back to The Book of Job. At the audition, Yi Qian, only 35 years old, gave an exquisite performance that was both natural and genuine, and he successfully recaptured Job’s expressions when trials had befallen him. His performance filled both the director and his team with admiration. From that day on, Yi Qian was the acknowledged favorite to play the role of the protagonist.
From the audition to the actual shooting of the film, Yi Qian had not once disappointed anyone. But when it came time to shoot the scene of “Job curses the day of his own birth,” the film’s progress ground to a halt.
In fact, over these days of shooting, Yi Qian realized too that he couldn’t get into the role because he couldn’t understand why such a perfect man as Job would curse the day of his own birth. He was therefore incapable of getting Job’s expressions and movements right when he was cursing the day he was born.
That evening, Yi Qian returned to his room and he thought about how he had caused the whole film crew to stop work because he couldn’t get that part right. He had delayed the film’s rate of progress, and he felt bad. Thinking these thoughts, Yi Qian said a prayer to God, and asked God to illuminate and guide him to understand why Job had cursed the day of his own birth when trials befell him. After praying, Yi Qian opened his Bible and read once again: “After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job spoke, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:1–3). Reading these verses, Yi Qian found that he still didn’t understand, and he thought: “Job was a perfect man in the eyes of God, and when trials befell him and his property was stolen and his children met their unfortunate demise, he did not blame God. Instead, he believed in God’s power to both give and take away, and he fell to the ground to praise God’s name. As things stood, how could Job possibly be unaware that the time of our birth is predestined by God? And how could he curse the day he was born? Surely this was him uttering a complaint in the pain of his trials?”
Time trickled past, and in the lonely silence of the night, all he could hear was the “tick tick” sound of his alarm clock.
Yi Qian lay his Bible aside and he thought of a book his wife had recently given him. The book explained very clearly the thought of God behind every single thing Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus did and, through his wife’s fellowships, he had come to understand more about God’s will. Thinking of this, Yi Qian hurriedly opened that book and he just so happened to see a fellowship about Job. He then turned to the page with the subtitle of “Job Curses the Day of His Birth Because He Does Not Want God to Be Pained by Him,” and he read: “When Satan stretched forth its hand to afflict the bones of Job, Job fell into its clutches, without the means to escape or the strength to resist. His body and soul suffered enormous pain, and this pain made him deeply aware of the insignificance, frailty, and powerlessness of man living in the flesh. At the same time, he also gained a profound appreciation and understanding of why God is of a mind to care for and look after mankind. In Satan’s clutches, Job realized that man, who is of flesh and blood, is actually so powerless and weak. When he fell to his knees and prayed to God, he felt as if God was covering His face, and hiding, for God had completely placed him in the hands of Satan. At the same time, God also wept for him, and, moreover, was aggrieved for him; God was pained by his pain, and hurt by his hurt…. Job felt God’s pain, as well as how unbearable it was for God…. Job did not want to bring any more grief upon God, nor did he want God to weep for him, much less did he want to see God pained by him. At this moment, Job wanted only to divest himself of his flesh, to no longer endure the pain brought upon him by this flesh, for this would stop God being tormented by his pain—yet he could not, and he had to tolerate not only the pain of the flesh, but also the torment of not wishing to make God anxious. These two pains—one from the flesh, and one from the spirit—brought heart-rending, gut-wrenching pain upon Job, and made him feel how the limitations of man who is of flesh and blood can make one feel frustrated and helpless. Under these circumstances, his yearning for God grew fiercer, and his loathing of Satan became more intense. At this time, Job would have preferred to have never been born into the world of man, would rather that he did not exist, than see God cry tears or feel pain for his sake. He began to deeply loathe his flesh, to be sick and tired of himself, of the day of his birth, and even of all that which was connected to him. He did not wish there to be any more mention of his day of birth or anything to do with it, and so he opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth: ‘Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine on it’ (Job 3:3–4). Job’s words bear his loathing for himself, ‘Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived,’ as well as his reproval of himself and sense of indebtedness for causing pain to God, ‘Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine on it.’ These two passages are the ultimate expression of how Job felt then, and fully demonstrate his perfection and uprightness to all. At the same time, just as Job had wished, his faith and obedience to God, as well as his fear of God, were truly elevated. Of course, this elevation is precisely the effect that God had expected” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”).
After reading this passage, Yi Qian’s eyes grew moist with tears, for he had understood from these words the reason why Job had cursed the day of his birth when trials befell him. Job feared God and shunned evil and he was praised by God as a perfect man. But Satan remained unconvinced, and it accused Job before God. In order to prove that Job was a just man, God permitted Satan to tempt Job, and thereafter Job lost his property, children and mountains of sheep and cattle, and his whole body broke out in painful boils. As this trial unfolded, Job perceived how evil, deplorable and ugly Satan was; Satan hated anyone who feared God and shunned evil and it did not want anyone to worship God, and so it used all the means at its disposal to make people deny and betray God. When Job was suffering, he came to appreciate God’s concern for man, and he understood that God regarded man as His close kin and cared for man at all times; he understood that God forgave man’s weaknesses and that God did not want to see man harmed by Satan and suffering all manner of pain. When Satan harms man, God’s heart bleeds. When Job perceived that God grieved and suffered for his sake, he reproached himself and he did not want to cause God any pain. And so, he spoke and cursed the day of his own birth, wishing rather that he had never been born into the world than that God should suffer for his sake. Yi Qian thought that never in all his experiences had he encountered such a great trial as had befallen Job, but when anything unfortunate happened to his family or some catastrophe occurred, he would blame God and misunderstand God, and would even harbor thoughts of betraying God. During trials, he only thought of his own pain, and never once gave thought to how God felt in His heart, much less did he show God any consideration or submit to Him in any way. Job, on the other hand, not only feared God and obeyed Him, but he also loved God and was considerate to God. This earned Job Yi Qian’s admiration, but it also made Yi Qian feel ashamed. Then, Yi Qian thought about how he hadn’t understood why Job had cursed the day of his own birth and how doubt had therefore arisen about the faith of Job. Yi Qian had thought that Job had been weakened by his trials and was therefore blaming God; what he hadn’t realized was that, by doing this, Job was expressing his true feelings out of consideration for God’s heart, which allowed others to see even more Job’s faith and obedience to God. Through pray-reading this passage, Yi Qian’s confusion was thoroughly dispelled, and he couldn’t help but sigh with emotion: “God truly does scrutinize the innermost heart of man, and Job deserves the title of perfect man!”
Yi Qian could hardly wait. He rushed off to find the director to share this passage with him …
After the director had read it, he exclaimed, “Thanks be to God! I feel so ashamed now that I’ve read this! Although I admired Job a lot, I always felt confused. Job was so upright, and he feared God and shunned evil, so why would he curse the day of his own birth? Now my confusion is gone at last. Job’s actions arose entirely from his love and consideration for God, and it was an expression of his unwillingness to cause God any grief or pain! That Job could express such a thing in such extreme pain is so admirable. We really cannot compare with Job!” As he spoke, this 50-something year-old director choked with sobs.
Yi Qian said with sincerity, “Yes! Last year, I became seriously ill. Although I knew that God’s good will was behind me getting sick, while I was in the throes of this illness and my body was in pain, though I did not say it out loud, I wondered in my heart why God wasn’t protecting me. I see now that everything I expressed during that trial was just misunderstanding and blame. I did not fear God or obey Him, and I did not have the desire to suffer yet still care for and satisfy God. When Job encountered trials, however, he had a God-fearing heart and he did not speak sinfully. Though his flesh suffered and grew weak, he chose to curse the day of his own birth rather than God be hurt at all on his account. During his trials, not only did Job develop discernment of Satan’s evil and deplorable ways, but he also came to appreciate and understand God’s love, which in turn increased his faith in God and made him more obedient to God—this was what Job reaped and attained through experiencing his trials. I saw that I had neither reaped nor attained anything real in my own trials, but instead had revealed too many corruptions; I really had been unworthy of God’s good intention. Before, I always used to harbor misunderstandings about Job, thinking that this perfect man Job must have been flawed somehow to have complained so amidst his trials. Thinking about this now, I feel so ashamed! This was not only a misunderstanding of Job, but even more than that, it was an expression of disbelief in the words of God! God’s assessment of Job was ‘There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil’ (Job 1:8). It is also recorded in the Bible what Jehovah said to Samuel: ‘For Jehovah sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). We just see the surface of things and we judge them to be right or wrong by relying on what we see with our eyes. Yet God scrutinizes the innermost heart of man and He sees our essence, and He sees in perfect clarity who is a God-fearing person and who is utterly devoted to Him! God’s word is the truth and we must believe and accept His word. If we don’t understand any of His words, then we have to pray and seek with a God-fearing heart. When we meet with people or things in the future which we are not able to fully understand, then we must not just look at their outward form, much less judge or condemn them arbitrarily. Instead, we must seek God’s will and seek the truth with a God-fearing heart, and that way we will refrain from displeasing God!”
“Yes indeed. God’s word is the truth! By using our imaginations to regard Job’s cursing of the day he was born, we are still not able to entirely accept God praising Job as a perfect man. It seems as though, if we do not know God, then we will be apt to use our imaginations in our approach to God’s words, and that would certainly displease God! We must not base our approach to God’s words on our own imaginations any longer,” said the director firmly.
Early next morning
“Taking You Back to the Book of Job, scene 20, take one. Action!”
With the sound of the producer’s clapperboard, the old man covered in sores began to scrape at his boils before the ashes of his fire.
The old man slowly raised his head. His eyes seemed to be filled with tears and, for a moment, his expression seemed to burst with a plethora of mixed emotions—attachment, adoration, pain. He wants to be strong, he wants to care for God’s heart, and such strong desires are startling in their intensity.
Finally, he said with tremendous self-loathing and pain: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3).
Out of scene, the director stood by the camera with a smile of relief, and cheerfully he called out, “Cut!”
The whole crew broke into joyful applause.
Yi Qian stood and wept for joy.