Godly Grief (Job 2-3)
We have been considering the book of Job and in the last discussion we watched the destruction of Job’s life at the hand of Satan.
HOWEVER: It is important to remember that it was the LORD who directed the Devil’s attention toward Job when in 1:8 He asks Satan,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man , who fears God and turns away from evil?”
God was divinely directing the Devil to be His instrument to demonstrate the power of saving faith and in the life of a believer, in this case Job, and how salvation can never be lost.
At the hand of the adversary,
> Job had his livelihood destroyed: Camels, donkeys, and sheep.
> His beloved children were all killed.
> Lastly, he was smitten with boils and brought to a place of agonizing physical pain
Sadly, as we see this time, even Job’s wife abandons him and his friends begin a series of discourses designed to reveal how Job is really a terrible sinner.
In Job 2:9, Job’s wife mockingly told him to stop acting self righteously and curse God. In a manner of speaking, she had become the mouthpiece for the devil who had boasted to God that if He were to remove His hedges of protection from around Job, then he would curse God to His face. She responded with unbelief.
Yet, Job does not curse God. The scriptures declare that Job did not sin with his lips.
Instead, Job gives his wife a warranted rebuke. He tells her she speaks as one of the foolish women. Her attitude of foolishness demonstrates atheism. A “fool,” according to the Bible, is one who denies and rejects God (Psalm 14:1). This foolishness is scornful, militant and deliberate unbelief. It is unbelief that knows better, intentionally shaking a fist at God.
Job then concludes his comment to his wife by uttering one of the most important theological truths in all of scripture.
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
His words acknowledge God’s complete sovereignty in all the affairs of our individual lives.
Though it is true God is good, that He is quick to save and to bless His children, it is sinful misplaced devotion to think of God only as our glorified Santa Claus or our magic lamp. Worldly people with a “fair weather” religiosity view God in this manner, and such an attitude should not be the mind-set of a true God fearer.
Then, Job’s three friends arrive (2:11-13):
Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Elihu, it is assumed, was also among them, but because of his youth, was not immediately mentioned until near the end when he final spoke (Job 32-37).
We know little about them as individuals except their names. Perhaps they were business associates or fellow elders in the nearby town where Job lived. Whatever the case, their main argument against Job is that he is suffering because he has sinned somewhere in his life. I will look with more detail at their argument later.
And, despite the poor counsel they will give Job as we will see, they did some things right for which they should be commended. During one of my pastoral ministry classes in seminary, Phil Manly, chaplain at USC medical center in Los Angeles, spoke to us about what to do when ministering to the sick and dying and those grieving. He listed at least four things Job’s friends did right from which we can learn:
1) They came to Job. When they heard of his trials and problems, they stopped whatever it was they were doing and came to their friend. We must have the same loyalty to our friends when they are in a similar situation.
2) They wept with him. When they arrived, they cried with Job, showing forth their sympathy with his difficulty. Sometimes, sitting and crying with a person during a hard trial can be a strong way to minister to his or her needs emotionally.
3) They sat with Job. They stayed around. They didn’t get up and leave immediately, but waited with Job as he worked through his grief. Staying long term with a person in distress shows true love and friendship.
4) They remained silent. They didn’t come with a ready answer, but sat silently waiting for Job to speak first. A person suffering in grief may not want an immediate response. Just coming to the person, weeping with him, and sitting quietly with him as the person expresses his emotion can mean a lot.
After seven long days of darkness and despair, Job finally breaks the silence and speaks. Chapter 3 records his first lengthy words following his trial, and those opening remarks lamenting his condition are difficult to read. His words sound morose, almost suicidal, as he expresses his grief.
With out going into specific detail, the chapter can be broken into three sections:
1) First, Job curses the day of his birth in 3:1-10.
2) Next, Job wishes he had died at birth in 3:11-19.
3) Then finally, Job longs to die now in 3:20-25.
I think in our modern day world, we have lost the importance of proper grieving. Because we live in a society in which our problems are for the most part easily solved, and those who are “depressed” or troubled with sorrow are placed in facilities or given drugs to help them overcome their dark thinking, we may become uncomfortable when we encounter a person who verbally expresses his or her despair.
The idea of depression, I believe, is even too speedily diagnosed by Christians as being “sinful.” Certainly the way the world may attempt to deal with a person’s depression by quickly prescribing medications is not the best solution, but neither is throwing out canned “theological” responses in a biblical counseling situation. When a dear friend has just lost her husband and children in a catastrophic automobile accident, it is not the best time to remind her of God’s lovingkindness or providential hand. Though reflecting upon those divine attributes will serve well later, letting her sob uncontrollably for a long while is probably what she needs at the moment.
Job desperately bemoans his circumstances, even longing for death to alleviate his suffering, but such grief should not be readily dismissed as sinful. David expressed similar words throughout his Psalms, Psalm 69:1-3 coming to mind, and Paul also experienced despairing circumstances during his missionary journeys, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
People should have an emotional response to tragedy – it would be weird for a person not to respond with any emotion. That is why I believe it is important to let folks have their moment of grief, allowing them the freedom to bewail the circumstances of their trial. It is our duty, like Job’s friends, to come along an offer our personal support.
But, we are not to loose perspective with grief. Depression and sorrow can become sinful when a person allows his circumstances to so dominate his life it excludes the trusting of God and submitting to His hand. David’s response to the death of his child born from an adulterous affair with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12 is a good picture. Though David was under a cloud of despair for the few days the baby linger at death, when news reached him that the infant had died, David’s response was to get on his feet, bathe himself, and then approach God in worship.
In the moment, when the darkness of trial covers over a person’s soul, it is proper to grieve with a heavy sorrow; but for the Christian, those trials must drive us to the feet of our God who is the only deliverer from such emotional blackness.