I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7
“So what you’re saying is, it may not be my fault.” The woman’s words took me by surprise. Having been a guest speaker at her church, we were now discussing what I’d shared that morning. “I have a chronic illness,” she explained, “and I have prayed, fasted, confessed my sins, and done everything else I was told to do to be healed. But I’m still sick, so I thought I was to blame.”
I felt sad at the woman’s confession. Having been given a spiritual “formula” to fix her problem, she had blamed herself when the formula hadn’t worked. Even worse, this formulaic approach to suffering was disproved generations ago.
Simply put, this old formula says that if you’re suffering, you must have sinned. When Job tragically lost his livestock, children, and health, his friends used the formula on him. “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” Eliphaz said, suspecting Job’s guilt (Job 4:7). Bildad even told Job that his children only died because they had sinned (8:4). Ignorant of the real cause of Job’s calamities (1:6–2:10), they tormented him with simplistic reasons for his pain, later receiving God’s rebuke (42:7).
Suffering is a part of living in a fallen world. Like Job, it can happen for reasons we may never know. But God has a purpose for you that goes beyond the pain you endure. Don’t get discouraged by falling for simplistic formulas.
How else do you see the “suffering = sin” formula being used? Why do you think it’s still so prevalent?
Great Physician, give me words to heal, not hurt, in times of pain.
After encountering God face to face, Job finds his anger and questions fading, and even describes himself repenting “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Yet God doesn’t rebuke Job for his questions and in fact suggests that in his grief and pain he was closer to the truth than his friends. In their quickness to defend what they saw as an attack on God, Job’s friends spoke arrogantly and without compassion. They preferred to blame Job for his pain than to have their ideas about God challenged—such as God always protecting the righteous from genuine tragedy. Ironically, in their hurry to defend Him, they “had not spoken the truth about [Him],” while Job had spoken honestly (v. 7). God’s approval of Job reveals that God doesn’t want us to suppress our pain, anger, and hard questions but deeply values genuine, honest relationship with Him.