Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off? (Job 4:7)
One of the things that always amazes me is when people claim to know the inner thoughts of God. They presume to know what God has not revealed in his word. I am specifically thinking about when tragic events befall people. We must always be careful about claiming to know that God is punishing someone for their sins or punishing a nation because of its wickedness. When my wife and I struggled with infertility during our first sixteen years of marriage, we had several people tell us that maybe God was disciplining us for some sin in our life or some sin in our past. Maybe. But without knowing that with absolute certainty, how is it comforting to say that? When a couple is grieving due to infertility, how is it helpful to say that? It’s not. It merely adds insult to injury. This is where the book of Job is too often a neglected book, a book that needs to be read more frequently by Christians. In the opening two chapters of the book we are clearly told that God views Job as a righteous man who fears Him. Thus, the devil tells God that if he allows him to test Job, to put him through some suffering, he can get Job to curse God. God allows the devil to have his way with Job, but tells him to spare his life. Thus, the devil takes all his property, kills all his children, and inflicts Job with painful boils from head to toe. Yet, “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). But amazingly, by the time we reach chapter four, Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, says to him, “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” In other words, if bad things are happening to Job, it must be because he has done something wrong. In chapters 6-7 Job attempts to defend himself and explain that he has committed no sin against God. Nevertheless, Bildad, another of Job’s friends responds to Job saying, “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.” In other words, just acknowledge you’ve done something wrong and repent of it, and God will restore you. With friends like Job’s who needs enemies. The point is that when we are attempting to comfort someone who is going through a tragic event, or even when we are talking about the tragedies that have befallen a nation (think 9/11), we need to refrain from speaking where scripture has not spoken or presuming to know the mind of God. When people are suffering, what they need to hear are words of grace and comfort. Sometimes it’s even better to not saying anything at all. Sometimes what people need is for someone to just hold their hand and sit with them for a while.
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