Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. Job 5:7
During the Golden Age of radio, Fred Allen (1894–1956) used comedic pessimism to bring smiles to a generation living in the shadows of economic depression and a world at war. His sense of humor was born out of personal pain. Having lost his mother before he was three, he was later estranged from his father who struggled with addictions. He once rescued a young boy from the traffic of a busy New York City street with a memorable, “What’s the matter with you, kid? Don’t you want to grow up and have troubles?”
The life of Job unfolds in such troubled realism. When his early expressions of faith eventually gave way to despair, his friends multiplied his pain by adding insult to injury. With good sounding arguments they insisted that if he could admit his wrongs (Job 4:7–8) and learn from God’s correction, he would find strength to laugh in the face of his problems (5:22).
Job’s “comforters” meant well while being so wrong (1:6–12). Never could they have imagined that they would one day be invoked as examples of “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” Never could they have imagined the relief of Job praying for them, or why they would need prayer at all (42:7–9). Never could they have imagined how they foreshadowed the accusers of the One who suffered so much misunderstanding to become the source of our greatest joys.
How have others misjudged you, and how did you feel? When have you been critical of others whose pain you didn’t understand?
Father, like Job’s friends, I’m inclined to assume that the troubles of others are somehow deserved. Please help me live this day in the Spirit of Your Son rather than in the words and thoughts of the accuser.
The book of Job is typically classified as Wisdom Literature, along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and portions of Psalms. Proverbs and many Wisdom psalms emphasize that since God’s wisdom is woven into the creation of the universe, living with wisdom—in tune to God’s ways—is more likely to result in human flourishing. However, both Job and Ecclesiastes nuance that picture, emphasizing that injustice and suffering can occur through no fault of their victims.
Throughout the book of Job, Job’s friends echo sentiments found in the Wisdom Literature of Proverbs and Psalms (for example, compare Job 5:19–21 to Psalm 91:5–16). Job’s friends refuse to face the clear exceptions to these principles and in so doing show a staggering lack of compassion for Job. In the end, God chastises them for not speaking “the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (42:7).