We easily critique Job’s “so called” friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They work tirelessly to paste neat and easy answers over Job’s anguish and pain. For some strange reason, they feel compelled to take turns trying to explain evil, defend God, and unpack the dark mystery of why bad things happen to good people. Eliphaz’s words are painfully simple and harsh. Bad things don’t happen to good people, which leads him to one conclusion: “Is not your wickedness great? . . . Therefore snares are around you” (22:5, 10).
Job’s anguished response bares his soul and the depths of his grief. He is weak from crying and is overcome with fear and dread: “I am scared by his presence. . . . God has weakened my mind; the Almighty has frightened me. Still I’m not annihilated by darkness” (23:15-17, ceb). I believe both Eliphaz and Job have something to teach us about grief and human suffering.
Eliphaz models what not to do. I am not sure we have learned much about spiritual consolation over the years. Too often we speak into another person’s pain with equally unhelpful and ill-considered words like “everything happens for a reason,” “God won’t give you more than you can bear,” or some other half-truth that does little more than add insult to injury. We all experience moments when we feel like life is nothing but stormy chaos. We desire certainty not ambiguity; we want answers not more questions—and that is precisely where we can learn from Job. It is OK not to have all the answers. It is OK to lament—to express our anger, our confusion, and our fears to God in prayer. There is a time and a place for expressions of joy and praise, and there is also a time and place for lament.
Lord, you are my help even when I become lost in confusion and grief. Encourage me to bare all that is in my soul to you in prayer. Amen.
Faithful people still have questions for God. Job wishes he could sit down with God and plead his case because he wants God to justify what has happened to him. The psalmist, traditionally identified as David, also feels abandoned by God and wonders why God is not coming to his aid. God can handle our questions. Job wanted an advocate, and Hebrews says that Jesus now fills that role for us. He is our great high priest and understands our sufferings, so we may boldly approach him for help. In Mark, Jesus deals with the challenge of money. It is a powerful force and can come between God and us if we cling to our resources instead of holding them loosely with thanksgiving for God’s provision.
• Read Job 23:1-9, 16-17. When have you, like Eliphaz, attributed your own suffering or that of others to wickedness on your part or on theirs? How often do you find yourself blaming others for the situations in which they find themselves?
• Read Psalm 22:1-15. How could your prayer life be more honest and transparent? What feelings do you hold back?
• Read Hebrews 4:12-16. When God shines the spotlight on your soul, what does God see?
• Read Mark 10:17-31. How do you square your “wealthy” life with Jesus’ call to discipleship?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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