Scripture to meditate on:
“Call if you will, but who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Resentment kills a fool,
and envy slays the simple.
I myself have seen a fool taking root,
but suddenly his house was cursed.
His children are far from safety,
crushed in court without a defender.
The hungry consume his harvest,
taking it even from among thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.
Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward.
“But if I were you, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
He provides rain for the earth;
he sends water on the countryside.
The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.
He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the wild animals.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
“We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.” – Job 5
The first of Job’s three friends, Eliphaz continues to “diagnose” Job’s troubles.
Job’s friends are convinced they know whey the patriarch is so miserable: he has sinned and now is suffering for it. (Job’s friends do not know what the author has told the reader repeatedly in chapters 1 and 2; that Job was upright and sinless, even in the midst of his tragedy.) Job’s friends have come to this conclusion, not because they have observed him sinning, or even because they have been told of Job’s sin, but simply because he is suffering and, therefore, they believe he must be guilty.
It would be easy to shake our heads and condemn Eliphaz for this conclusion, but ancient cultures aren’t the only ones to quickly lay the blame on the victim.
There seems to be something in the human psyche that makes us want to believe that “when bad things happen to good people” …they probably weren’t so good. How often do we shake our heads and tell ourselves, “If he had taken better care of himself, he wouldn’t have become ill.” “If they had paid more attention to their children, they wouldn’t be in this situation now.” “If she had worked harder, she wouldn’t have lost her job.” Perhaps these are just strategies for putting emotional distance between ourselves and the pain of another person.
But Christ’s example was not to insulate himself from our pain, but to carry it for us. The book of Job is a reminder to us to look forward into God’s Biblical narrative to see the cross. The suffering of Job is prologue to the suffering of Christ and the hope of his resurrection.
“For misery does not come from the dust, and trouble does not sprout from the ground.” – Job 5:6
Questions to ponder:
- Have you been guilty of assuming that someone in trouble must somehow “deserve” the hardship they are suffering?
- Do you believe that God is waiting to punish us for our wrongdoing?
- What do you think Jesus would have said to Job if he were sitting in the circle of friends?