i recently read through the book of Job, one i tend to shy away from due to its weighty content. i mean, it’s heavy stuff, the book of Job–laments and suffering, the age-old question of ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’
this time, when i read it, there was one little verse, right near the end, that stood out to me. i’ve been wrestling with it ever since, mulling it over, holding it up to the light, trying to figure out why it hits me with such force::
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7)
here’s what i notice: God was angry, angry at three men who seemingly spoke truth. i mean, read back through the chapters; what they say to Job is right along the lines of what so many Christians say today. “suffering is God’s punishment for sin; repent and be saved!” we say these things because it seems and sounds like the correct answer, how a Christian should respond.
but God got angry–because
they we have not spoken of him what was right.
ohmygoodness. how many times have i done the very same thing, spoken of things which i did not understand?
it saddens me, deeply, and ignites a fire within me at the same time. because honestly, i love the Church, messy and imperfect as we may be. and i think there are a lot of things we’re doing right, things that are beautiful and worthy, like sending out missionaries and caring for the poor and taking communion and 24/7 prayer and worship.
but i also think there are a lot of things we do that shouldn’t be done, things like judging and criticizing and being insensitive to others’ sufferings (even if they are “sinners”.) we’re quick to speak and slow to listen even when the scriptures clearly tell us to do the opposite. at times we hurt instead of heal with our words, and we talk about things that nobody really understands as if ours is the final say. we wield Bible verses as weapons without taking time to dissect the content. we act as if we’re God’s mouthpiece, which is all well and good except what if sometimes what we say is wrong, and we do more damage than good? what if what we’re speaking of God is not right?
do i believe that sin bears consequence and punishment is real? yes, i do. do i believe that true repentance must happen in the hearts of men so that they may be saved? yes, i do. and do i believe that we’re sometimes asked to call out the wrong that needs to be made right? yes, i do.
[Photo by Mustafa Khayat, Creative Commons]
but when we do so, we need to be careful that we’re speaking truth in love, that our conversation is seasoned with grace, and that our speech is pure. we must be careful to avoid “thus saith the Lord” when in all actuality, we’re not sure that is what the Lord is really saying. we must strive to speak of him what is right–and if we don’t know the answer, then it’s okay to admit that. there is humility and grace in swallowing our pride and choosing to say nothing at all.