For the past few weeks, (and for several more weeks to come), my bible study group has been going through the book of Job. You can’t help but feel for Job. He loses his livestock, his children, and his health. To add insult to injury (literally), Job’s wife is anything but supportive. But, Job’s got friends! Certainly, they’ll show him love and support…right?
It kind of starts out that way. When Job’s friends initially hear of his hardships, they come to be with him and mourn with him. But, it doesn’t take too long before his friends have had it with Job.
Bildad from Shuah said:
How long will you talk
and keep saying nothing?
Does God All-Powerful
stand in the way of justice
He made your children pay
for their sins.
So why don’t you turn to him
and start living right?
Are you feeling the love? Firstly, when we go through the debates, it seems as if Job’s friends are just tired of his whining. Yeah, yeah, you’re suffering, we get that, just shut up, Job! There are two side’s of this to examine: Job’s and his friends’.
Firstly, Job is whining. He admits that’s he’s complaining and he proclaims that he’s going to keep on doing it, too.
“Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
It’s easy to say that Job is justified in his sorrow and frustration, but the reality is: he is whining and complaining. That’s not going to change a thing. While Job is deserving of sympathy, his bitterness is likely aggravating an already difficult situation.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing – Philippians 2:14
Secondly, examining this from his friend’s perspective, they’re also not being extremely patient. They’re not helping matters by basically telling Job: suck it up, buttercup! While their intentions may be good, they’re delivery seems crass. A good message is easily lost when it is delivered with harsh tones.
Furthermore, in addition to wanting to put an end to Job’s whining, his friends assume that his suffering is his fault.
“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.
We learn in the very first chapter of Job that he was an upright and blameless man. The suffering he experienced was not a punishment at all, but that’s what his friend’s assume. It seems harsh when it happens to Job, but we behave similarly all the time. The term used most often is victim-blaming. While I don’t condone such behavior, it’s fairly easy to understand why we blame victims.
It was easy for Job’s friends to convince themselves that he was getting what he deserved. It’s far more difficult to believe that Job was innocent but the Lord does as He pleases. While we say it with our lips, I believe most of us have a hard time getting our minds around the state of the world in which we live.
We love the idea of reciprocity because it feels fair. You do bad things, bad things happen to you; you do good things, good things happen to you. That works. That makes sense. However, that’s not how God operates. Bad things happened to Job and he was a blameless man. We all know that not every one who is financially wealthy is a saint…
If you’re going through a tough time, God is not necessarily punishing you. We do live in a sinful and fallen world. Sometimes, we face the byproducts of sin which is often pain. God hasn’t abandoned you and He isn’t punishing you. Let us be hopeful, not disparaged in times of trouble.
When we have friends facing hard times, let us be gentle, kind, and loving. While we may WANT to tell them to suck it up, buttercup, that language is neither helpful nor loving. Sometimes, all people want, really, is a listening ear.
Take care and God bless!