Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
By: Mike Anderson - prodigalmike.com
Suffering does not create faith! Faith is revealed through suffering... From the beginning of the Creation Era we see the importance of relationships between human beings. It was not good that Adam was alone. Eve was made for Adam and it seems that it was love at first sight when he calls her “Woman” because she came from him. Relationships begin to take on other perspectives after the fall and the expulsion from the garden. Cain and his brother Abel's relationship does not go well. Noah does not have the best relationship with his extended family or the people around him. If he had, wouldn't they have listened to him? Abraham must have had a good relationship with his father. But after Tara's death, Abraham is profoundly affected and so are all of his relationships. The relationships of Isaac and his family, Jacob and his 12 sons and the relationship between Joseph and his brothers are all examples of relationships that are revealed through suffering from famines, loss, and even imprisonment. One of our key truths in this lesson is “Suffering doesn’t create faith -- it reveals genuine faith, develops and matures faith.” I believe the book of Job also teaches us that suffering reveals the true condition of our relationship with God and it reveals the true condition of our relationships with other!
It is during the darkest times that the true strength of a relationship is revealed!
At the conclusion of this lesson regarding Job’s conversation with God, students will be able to explain that the presence or absence of suffering in a person’s life does not reflect his or her standing before God. Also: Students may also gain an understanding of how suffering affects our relationships - even our relationship with God! And, that suffering reveals the true standing of a relationship.
It was no different for Job and his three friends. Job had 3 good friends. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Although the things they eventually tell Job will cause God to rebuke them (Job 42:7-9) they actually show us that they cared deeply for Job and sympathized with him. When they heard that Job was having difficulties, they came immediately. (Job 2:11–13) No one else came to Job’s aide. (Until Elihu comes on the scene in Job 32) In chapter 19 we're told that even his brothers had abandoned him. They not only came, but they stayed! They also empathized with Job. They came as friends and as counselors to try to help. The dictionary says that empathize means - “understand and share the feelings of another: counselors need to be able to empathize with people.” And that's exactly what they were doing. “When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky” (Job 2:12). These were obviously men of prominence, education and wealth, yet when they saw their friend they literally became distraught. They sat down on the ground with him and did not speak a word for seven days and seven nights, “for they saw that his pain was very great” (v. 13b). Having pity for him, they suffered in silence together with Job.
Enter Job’s wife…
The faithfulness of Job’s friends is in stark contrast to Job’s wife. She is first seen in 2:9 when she says, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" Wow! She was obviously bitter and tired of the husband who had given her everything and now, he could not provide. He must have been quite a burden to her. We are not told if she is the mother of the children that died. It was common in those days to have multiple wives as did Abraham and Jacob. She most likely was the mother and suffered the loss of her own children. She now finds herself in a position of poverty and having to take care of a husband who probably had leprosy. One thing is certain, she is not the wife that God made her to be. She does not empathize or have pity on Job. God made man and woman to be one flesh. When one prospers both prosper when one suffers both suffer. But instead of suffering with Job as his friends were doing, she tells him to curse God and die. It was a common belief in ancient times that to curse God meant instant death. The next time she is mentioned is in 19:17 She evidently turns away from Job because his breath is “loathsome” because of the disease that he has. Bad breath!
And what about Job’s friends?
After seven days and seven nights the silence ends. Job's friends then become judgemental and begin telling him to confess sin to the Lord because it is obvious that he would not be suffering if it were not for sin in his life. They held strong opinions on how God works and they could not imagine that the God of the universe would work in other ways! Job is not perfect. He is a human being! He is a sinner just like us. He develops a problem with pride during this time. (Something Satan would have pointed out if he had been prideful in chapter 1 when God said, “Have you considered My servant Job?”)
Prideful or not, Job does have a point about how his friends are treating him. Job tells them, “These ten times you have insulted me; You are not ashamed to wrong me. Even if I have truly erred, My error lodges with me” (Job 19:3-4). I love the way the NLT says it in vv. 2-5: “How long will you torture me? How long will you try to crush me with your words? You have already insulted me ten times. You should be ashamed of treating me so badly. Even if I have sinned, that is my concern, not yours. You think you’re better than I am, using my humiliation as evidence of my sin.”
God allows suffering for HIS purposes! Can suffering happen because of sin? Absolutely! It was happening in the book of Corinthians where it says, “For this reason, many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Cor. 11:30). But is all suffering because of sin in our lives? Of course not! So the question is do you know the difference in someone else's life as to why they are suffering? I do not. God has never given me that divinely inspired Word that he gave Paul concerning the Corinthians. That is the Holy Spirit’s Territory!
I have experienced anxiety and depression many times during the last 20 years. I experienced a little over a year and a half of major anxiety and depression to the point that I was near suicide about 17 years ago. It was literally more than I could handle. But my wife stayed by my side. She empathized with me and prayed for me and supported me and never turned away from me. It was not uncommon for me to wake her at 3 or 4 a.m. and tell her I needed her to help me. She would immediately pray out loud for me! And it helped! When a spouse goes through anxiety and depression in that depth, statistics say that 50% of all marriages end in divorce during this time. It is in dark times that “one flesh” is so important!
One thing I can tell you for sure is if you're trying to help someone going through distress, loss, anxiety, depression, disease… you do not tell them that they're going through those things because of sin in their lives. That's exactly what Job’s friends did causing God's anger to be against them. “After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.’”(Job 42:7-9) (this is why we must be very careful not to use their speeches from the book of Job as truth in teaching others what God is like…)
The judgmental speeches that Job’s friends give, without any thought of what they cannot see, know or understand, caused great distress for Job. What is missing in their speeches that upset God so much? I believe it is Grace. They portray God as a God who demands perfection from people that cannot give perfection! God loves the people he has created and he offers them Grace! But the thought that God is a caring loving God never occurs to them. God does Judge those who reject him but that is not what was going on here. It's obvious that they assumed that was what was going on!
I believe their intentions were good. They were trying to help. But they hurt Job deeply by constantly telling him that he needed to confess his hidden sin to God and maybe God would show Mercy to him. They could not have been more wrong. From my own experiences I am pretty sure that if Job ever needed advice or counsel during times of suffering, He would never go to one those three men again! I have been told that what I was going through was because of sin by a couple of different people. No doubt I am a sinner but was all of the things that I have been through because of some hidden sin? Not that the Lord has revealed but I have to say, He has used it to shape me and mold me. But I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if I had listened to Doctors and friends back then, 20 years ago.
Recently, Multiple doctors have told me that they believe sleep apnea was the major cause of most if not all of the problems I have been experiencing. I am now sleeping well and feeling better than I have felt in 20 years! I can feel and see the changes that God is making in my life because I finally did what I needed to have done 20 years ago. My wife also seems happier! She laughs now more I have seen her laugh in a long time. I don’t understand how she could stand by me through the hard times but I thank our Almighty God for her! I did try a CPAP back then and hated it! Being “A MAN” (tongue in cheek) I was just going to tuff it out! God gives healing in many forms but sometimes he won’t give it until we take it.
Relationships are more important than we can possibly imagine. Relationships change us! They can steer us in one direction or another. It is an illusion to think that your family you have or the friends you choose do not help shape who you are! But we like to think that we are in control. God let Job know who was ultimately in control. Always give God the glory and humble yourself before him. The Irony is that when we have a relationship with God and are humble before him, THAT changes and shapes our relationships with everyone else! Remember, it is during the dark times that true friends are revealed! It is during the dark times that the strength or weakness of a marriage is revealed. And, it is during the dark times that we can see the truth of our relationship with God!
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