Recently I visited a cousin in Maine. As she and her husband drove home, a foreign driver without insurance ran a double red flashing light just a few yards from their house. He demolished their car, rolling it over. My cousin suffered bruised ribs and broken fingers; her husband, who had already suffered several strokes and a heart attack, ended up with a bad knee cut, but they survived.
At times we face an incredible onslaught of misfortune, bad luck, or disaster. We encounter not just one event, which would be bad enough, but one catastrophe after another. We lose a loved one, receive a life-threatening diagnosis, and, like my cousin and her husband, get hit by a reckless driver. It seems more than we can take. When we reflect, we wonder if somehow God hasn’t taken aim at us. We no longer see our situation as a test of our faith, a challenge to our trust, or a strengthening of our love. We seem to be at war–with God.
God Makes War On Us?
Or, is He making war on us? Job knows the feeling. In 6:4, he explains to his friends, who try to minimize his anguish, the reason in Chapter Three he wants to die. “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me,” he says, “my spirit drinks their poison; God’s terrors are arrayed against me.” Among ancient warriors, archers rained down a hail of arrows on their enemy. In this case, Job feels targeted by the Archer-in-Chief.
Job here answers several of his friend Eliphaz’s previous statements. Disaster results, Eliphaz says, 1. From evil we ourselves have sown (4:8; 5:2) 2. From diseases, natural to humans, arising from the god of the underworld (5:7, tr. Habel) 3. The Almighty’s discipline, not to be despised (5:17)
Like Eliphaz, when friends see our plight, they tend to offer plausible explanations for our suffering: a natural part of life; God is teaching us a lesson; or worse, it’s our own fault! Fed up with platitudes without empathy, Job cuts to the chase: “God’s poison-tipped arrows penetrate my bloodstream.”
When we consider the rapid succession of Job’s losses of his businesses, wealth, employees, health, and children, why do we wonder at his feeling? Like us Job contends with events as they appear to him. Without knowing the backstory in heaven, Job draws the inevitable conclusion: he has become God’s enemy. This crushes his spirit. The losses hurt, the griefs overwhelm, but God’s turning on him betrays their friendship. He thought he understood how life worked: be righteous and God blesses.
Do you feel God is attacking you? Have your losses piled so high you can’t see over them? Have well-meaning friends offered shallow advice? Does knowing a godly man like Job also felt God attacked him help you feel less alone?
[Sources: Photo: commons.wickimedia.org; Text: Jewish Publication Society (1980); Habel, The Book of Job: A Commentary (1985).]