Last week, we considered the fact that we don’t know everything that is going on. When a tragedy strikes, we often look for the reason why, but that isn’t always guaranteed. In Job’s case, he did not know that Satan was inflicting harm against him to prove a point. And he didn’t know that God had permitted this or that he was holding Satan back from killing Job. If he had known these things, he might have had a different perspective about his suffering. However, he did very well at the beginning and showed great loyalty to God. But even the best may falter at some point.
The next section of the book (Job 3-37) is dedicated to the back-and-forth between Job and his friends. Job’s pain drives him to say things that he would not normally say. His friends, who were at first there for his comfort, decide that Job’s situation is his own fault. The argument goes back-and-forth until God finally steps in the set things straight (Job 38-41). Before we get to the conclusion, let’s look at some of the things that Job and his friends said.
- Job’s painful thoughts (Job 3; 6-7)
Have you ever been in pain and then blurted out a response that wasn’t called for? When the hammer hits your hand instead of the nail, when you didn’t sleep well last night, and when you are not feeling well—these are times when we may not be as guarded with our words. Job had just lost his wealth, children, and health. His current suffering was weighing heavily on him. It should come as no surprise that the words he says are not quite right.
• He wished he had never been born (Job 3:11).
• He admitted that his grief was affecting his speech (Job 6:2-3).
• He would not concede that he had sinned (Job 6:22-24).
• He could not understand why God was hurting him (Job 6:20).
You can tell that Job was in great pain. His pain caused him to say things he shouldn’t have. But still the pain was there. Can you commiserate with Job? If you have been in pain, you know that your responses will be tainted. The longer the pain lingers, the more time you will have to begin questioning God’s love for you and the reasons for your suffering. Please be careful. God is actively caring for you even when you can’t see His hand in your life. We just need to trust Him because we don’t know all that is going on.
- Eliphaz’s painful assumptions (Job 4; 5)
When I was younger, it was easy for me to judge situations. I “knew” what the problem was and was confident in the solution. Now that I am older and more experienced, I see that things are seldom as easy as I once thought they were. Problems are often complicated and not as easy to pinpoint. Eliphaz had come to comfort his friend. But after hearing Job’s pain-filled thoughts, he made some hasty assumptions.
• He assumed Job was a hypocrite (Job 4:4-5).
• He assumed that Job had sinned (Job 4:7-8).
• He assumed that Job needed to repent (Job 5:17-18).
• He assumed that God always protects the righteous (Job 5:19-21).
“Eliphaz is like so many of us who give advice. We can tell someone else how he ought to do things, in a nice way, phrased in very attractive language, but what we say may not be accurate. … He said a lot of nice things, good things, true things, but he didn’t help Job.”1
Were Eliphaz’s assumptions true? This is a tricky question. We know hypocritical people who are eager to help people but are unwilling to accept help when they need it. We know people who have sinned and faced the consequences. We also know that God wants people to repent, find forgiveness, and be restored to a right relationship with God. And, if we are honest, we do assume that God will protect those who are faithfully serving Him. These are pretty good assumptions. The only problem was that they didn’t apply to Job’s situation. Eliphaz didn’t know what God was doing behind the scenes.
We have looked at the responses of two people to suffering. From what I can see, neither of them was quite right. Job’s pain loosened his tongue but didn’t open his eyes to what God was doing behind the scenes. He questioned God’s handling of his situation and couldn’t understand why he was going through it. Job’s friend wasn’t very helpful although his motives were good. His many assumptions were generally true but they didn’t apply to Job. Eliphaz assumed that all trouble was judgment from God. But this was not the case. I think that we could learn something from the mistakes both men made.
From Job, we can learn several lessons:
• We should ask God for grace to endure suffering when it comes.
• We should ask God to guard our speech when influenced by pain.
• We should trust that the Lord is doing what is best despite what we can see.
From Eliphaz, we can learn several lessons:
• We don’t know why bad things happen.
• We don’t know if suffering is judgment from God.
• We don’t know everything that God is doing behind the scenes.
It is easy to look at Job and Eliphaz and see their mistakes. But it is much more difficult to handle it when it happens to us. Instead of speaking hastily or judging hastily, let’s assume that God is in control and that there are some things that he hasn’t revealed to us. We don’t know why things happen. But we do know that God is good and is always doing what is best in every situation.
1 McGee 595, 599.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. II, Joshua through Psalms, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 592-601.
Zuck, Roy, Job, Chicago: Moody Press, 1978, pp. 22-42.