Eliphaz Job 15:4 (Jewish Publication Society text, 1980)
When we suffer tragedy, our hearts break with helpless frustration along with our inconsolable grief. In Job’s speech of chapters 12 – 14, he scorns his three wisdom colleagues for treating him as if he were ignorant or stupid (12:1-5), points to thieves’ untroubled lives (12:6), and attributes his suffering to God (12:9), and to His arbitrary power (12:14). Traumatized by his losses, who can blame Job for striking out in rage against God?
But some people do. If we complain to God against the unjustified suffering we experience, well-meaning friends may accuse us of disrespecting Him. Or worse. If we cry out to God in such desperation as Job’s, we can incur the wrath of people who defend Him. “Be careful what you say!” “You know you don’t mean that!” “God has been so good to you.” So they shame us into submission.
If “robbers lead untroubled lives” (v. 6), as Job maintains, then, why be pious? Why lead quiet, godly, lives? Why meet with God in Scripture, prayer and meditation each day, or attend church each week? Why bother? It does’t matter how we live.
And if “whatever He tears down cannot be rebuilt,” as Job had also said (v. 14), what’s the point of prayer to petition Him? If God acts so arbitrarily destructive, why ask anything of Him? By putting Job down therefore, Eliphaz rushes to God’s defense. Job’s words endanger piety and prayer.
When we hear people in severe distress make shotgun-like blasts against the God we know and love, we also find it hard to sit still, pay attention, and listen. Instead of hearing their pain, like Eliphaz we intervene to defend God, to shut down their explosive rage.
Much better to listen. God never shames Job. Instead He later commends him for his honesty when He says to the friends, “You have not spoken the truth about Me, as did my servant Job” (42:8). God knows His world at times baffles us with suffering, and prefers honest, straightforward complaint to stifled silence or theological correctness.
[Source: Photo William Blake, 1823. Accessed from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/2155/200011 on 2013-09-17 Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.]