November 8: In the Middle of Suffering
November 8, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Bildad now takes his turn to speak, and immediately begins by rebuking Job. The way Job has been speaking has, in Bildad’s view, discredited God. “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind? Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?” In Bildad’s view, any questioning of God’s ways is inappropriate. Surely God knows what he is doing. Surely God cannot be charged with doing things wrong.
Of course, at one level Bildad is right. God does not pervert justice. God does do what is right. But Bildad makes an illogical and theologically inaccurate leap: if God does what is right, and if Job is suffering, ergo Job must have done something wrong. He has no space in his mind for the possibility that evil and suffering can fall upon the righteous.
But Bildad is not only arguing with theological inaccuracy, he is acting with pastoral insensitivity. Not only can he not think through how it is possible that bad things happen to “good” people, he also is unable to act in a way that expresses empathy with such suffering. Instead of coming alongside, he rebukes. Instead of listening, he lectures. Instead of bringing healing, he further hurts Job. Let us not be like Bildad when our friends or colleagues are suffering.
Given Bildad’s starting point, the second half of his lecture makes sense—having argued that because God is good and because Job is suffering therefore Job must have done something wrong, he then turns to Job and urges him to repent. “If you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.” And then he continues to make the same point over and over again in other ways. Basically, if Job does what is right, if he pleads with God to have mercy on him, God will restore him and bless him.
All true—if you take Bildad’s starting position. But what if Bildad is wrong? In that case, what Bildad is urging is cruel. Job does not need to be urged to repent. He does not need to be told that if he does what is right God will be with him.
What he needs to hear is that Bildad cares for him. What he needs to hear is that God’s sovereign goodness is inexplicable in relation to the troubling question of suffering but that there is an answer, even if now it is not clear. He needs to be encouraged to trust God. Bildad is adding shame to Job’s suffering. What he should be doing is practically alleviating Job’s pain, assuring Job of God’s kindness and goodness and that Job is not alone in his suffering.
Of course, from a New Testament point of view we have more to say. Far more. We have the cross. Where God incarnate suffered, so that we might not, and in his body on the tree took the pain and wrath and sin of us all that we might die to sin and live to righteousness—and that one day we would live forever in a world of no more pain or suffering or tears.
Bildad is preaching religious legalism. We are to preach and live the gospel. Even in the middle of suffering.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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