The Love of God
I can’t imagine dealing with all that Job has had to deal with. He has lost everything but his wife. He is physically ill. He is suffering emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially, and physically. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book entitled “On Death and Dying” in 1969. In it she described five stages through which a person experiencing grief and tragedy must progress. The Kubler-Ross model of grieving is commonly referred to as “the five stages of grief”. Those stages are:
Now these stages are typically associated with those that are dying of a terminal disease but do apply to any form of catastrophic loss. I think we see aspects of all these stages in Job’s response to his tragedy. He has certainly experienced catastrophic loss. Let’s recap for a moment. Job has lost a great deal. Three of his friends came to comfort him as good friends do. These friends quietly sat with him for seven days before Job began to accuse God of un-righteousness. I think these are good friends who truly wanted to help Job in his time of trial. What wisdom they had to sit quietly and comfort him with their presence. They didn’t feel the need for worthless words. They just sat with him in solidarity.
I don’t know about you but I can really get my hackles up when I hear someone lay charges against God; I get quite indignant. Job’s charges against God had the same effect on his friends. Below is yet another passage where Job claim’s his innocence before a holy God. This is a subtle charge against God; if Job is innocent then God is guilty of unrighteousness.
“Are your days as the days of man,
or your years as a man’s years,
that you seek out my iniquity
and search for my sin,
although you know that I am not guilty,
and there is none to deliver out of your hand?
Your hands fashioned and made me,
and now you have destroyed me altogether.”
His friend Zophar responds with a statement that is true.
“…Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”
We all deserve death and eternal suffering separated from God for all eternity; anything less is grace and mercy. While what Zophar said is true, I believe he was wrong to say it. Context is everything. Job has lost everything and we should expect him to struggle with his loss. There is a point when one should progress to the final stage of grief – acceptance. Considering all that Job went through I don’t think Job had reached that point after only seven days. As I’ve said, I can get indignant myself in such a situation so I understand how Zophar fell but he should have remembered where he was and why he was there.
Of the two of them Zophar had a better shot at controlling his emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling indignant when someone speaks un-righteously toward God but frankly, He doesn’t really need our help in defending Himself. What He expects of us, however, is to show the hurting and the lost His love. Have you seen that Geico commercial where the announcer asks if drill sergeants would make good therapists? It starts with a military looking guy sitting in a chair asking a fellow lying on a couch “how does that make you fell” and ends with him shouting at the guy and throwing a Kleenex box at him. I laugh every time.
I know I have felt like dealing with people that way from time to time but the truth is that while doing so might make me feel better it does nothing to show the love of God to a hurting person. As I have often quoted here before, Jesus says that His followers must deny themselves (Luke 9:23). Job’s friends probably felt like Job had wallowed in his grief long enough and it was time for him to “snap out of it”. Maybe they thought it was time for “tough love” or perhaps they felt the indignity that I described. Whatever the case his friends were wrong; they should have denied themselves their sense of indignity and focused on Job’s need. Job needed to pass through the five stages of grief and he wasn’t there yet. God intended him to go through those stages of grief as a process of bringing him face to face with his filthiness before a holy God. God Himself would eventually address Job and set Him straight.
I believe that the only thing Job’s friends ended up doing was working him up into a fever pitch; they became a foil against which he could build his anger. I’ve seen such behavior with those who don’t want to face the truth. They start tilting at windmills, taking on all comers in an effort to avoid looking inwardly at the source of their troubles. None of us wants to look in the mirror when we are afraid of what we will see.
You shouldn’t agree with someone who accuses God, but you should look hard and long at the situation before you do respond. I find it hard to believe that a “you had that coming” approach to someone who has experienced what Job experienced is a wise and loving way to respond to someone’s hurt. There are different ways to say the truth and it doesn’t have to include condemnation.
Our job is to glorify God by obediently following where He leads; by doing what He has asked us to do. He has asked us to love one another. Our response to those who are hurting must reflect the love of God. It may be that they need a “snap out of it” kind of response but in most cases they need someone to simply be there, to say “you are not alone”. Brothers I pray that you will always respond with love toward those who are hostile to God. They are already condemned; what they need is love.
Have a blessed day brothers!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!