When Friends Criticize

Online_Library_of_Liberty_-_PLATE_X__The_Just__Upright_Man_is_laughed_to_Scorn__-_Blake_s_Illustrations_of_the_Book_of_Job_pdfEliphaz 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.]

About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy (gordongrose.com) blog to learn more. TragedyTransformed.com provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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