Be close to Him and wholehearted;
Good things will come to you thereby.
Accept instruction from His mouth;
Lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to Shaddai you will be restored,
If you banish iniquity from your tent;
If you regard treasure as dirt,
Ophir-gold as stones of the wadi,
And Shaddai be your treasure
And precious silver for you,
When you seek the favor of Shaddai,
And lift up your face to God,
You will pray to Him, and He will listen to you,
And you will pay your vows.
You will decree and it will be fulfilled,
And light will shine upon your affairs.
When others sink low, you will say it is pride;
For He saves the humble.
He will deliver the guilty;
He will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.
I’m sure that Eliphaz just got tired of the whining. For a while the friends were silent and provided comfort to Job. All was going well until Job claimed to be innocent, until Job dared to suggest that God was not being just. Job crossed the line, the friends had no other choice but to defend God . . . really?
This story reads like a wonderful play. Back and forth the friends respond to Job. He must have done something wrong! The faster that he repents, the less he will suffer. The more that he claims his innocence, the more suffering God will cause him. Job does not understand why his friends don’t believe him, he wants them to listen and to join him in his pleading to God. They still cannot believe him for this situation is one that they have never encountered before, bad things do not happen to good people.
I wish I could say that this no longer takes place. I wish that we have learned that the pie in the sky wisdom of Psalms and Proverbs is no longer used against those that go through difficulties. Unfortunately there are many faithful people who respond like those friends in the face of human suffering. Someone must have done something wrong!
That suffering could be natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis. The suffering can also be accidents, acts of violence, or illness. In light of those what is our response as God’s people, do we claim that someone has sinned?
I hope not . . . I hope that we have read through Job enough to know that God does not need defense, that bad things happen to good people, that there is much about the world that cannot be explained.
There is also a call to faithful response. The response is primarily to stand by those who suffer, comforting with presence more than words, serving with compassion rather than advice, and responding with advocacy instead of blame. These become the ways of honoring the mystery that is life while making incarnate the promise of one who is with us in the midst of suffering.
Being present takes a community willing and able to struggle with the realities of life and willing to continue to ask the difficult questions of living in a fallen world while keeping the tension of not always having an answer.
I have been blessed to see this king of community in action and can tell you not just that its possible but that it truly is transformative. May we lean into this kind of community wherever we are!