Biography – Job - Trusting God Despite Suffering!
Was your suffering the result of your own sin?
Nancy Braughton. Did your brothers and sisters ever play tricks on you? My daughter will say to her brother, “Sam, it’s a snow day!” Now what she means is different than what Sam expects. She’s saying, “There’s snow on the ground!” But Sam is expecting school to be out! Isn’t that funny cruel? I will confess to you when I was in school, even college, there was nothing quite like an unexpected day off! And the reason was irrelevant. School is closed because of snow. School is delayed because of fog. School is closed because a water main broke or there’s a power failure or the buses won’t start! But here’s a reason one would never expect. “Kids, school is closed because wild animals are running loose and we don’t want you to run into one.” Nothing like Ohio being on the front page of every major news source this past week. Here we have a man who dies from an apparent self inflicted gun shot wound.[i] But before he shot himself he apparently opened the cage doors and 49 out of 56 exotic animals die. Shot to death because they posed a serious threat to human life. 18 tigers, 9 male lions, 8 female lions, 6 black bears, 3 mountain lions, 2 grizzly bears, 2 wolves and one baboon. This picture was especially depressing. What depresses you? A sad animal story? A sad people story? A sad movie? Ohio weather? – three straight days of rain! Another unexpected expense? The death of someone you love? A seemingly hopeless situation? Job is depressed. Let’s find out why! Turn to Job chapter 3! Do you need a Bible? My daughter sent me this sign. “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.” I think that’s funny. Job’s dark side is chapter 3. For a moment let’s go back into chapter 2. Look at the last sentence of verse 10. What Job said in verse 10 was directed towards his wife. She’s bitter! Job is just flat depressed. Depression is not a word used back then but it is today. To be depressed is not just feeling blue. Depression is a “a psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.”[ii] And people get depressed for various reasons. For some it’s genetics. You have family members all struggling with these same feelings of complete sadness. But there are other reasons. Christian Counselor Brian Davis said, “Depression can be triggered by “poor sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, sin, the normal stresses of life, demonic attack, death of a loved one, loneliness, perceived failure, job loss, divorce, poverty” and oh by the way extreme physical suffering. Job just doesn’t “GET” why he’s suffering! He knows God promised to be near him. God has been near him, but right now God seems so very far away! EVER FEEL LIKE THAT BEFORE? Remember, the wisdom books call us to check our emotions and THINK! A depressed person refuses to do that. June Hunt created a ministry called “Hope for the Heart.” She said, “depressed people ’look at life through a black filter.’”[iii] Everything they see in life looks helpless or hopeless. Their normal dialogue changes. “I can’t do anything right.” “Why should I even try?” “Nobody loves me.” “I have nothing to live for.” Job’s dialogue changes drastically from chapter 2 to chapter 3. He regrets his birth in verses 1-10. (vs. 1) He would rather cease to exist than live. He gets worse in verse 11. It would have been better if I had never been born! He drops a notch lower in verse 20. He just wants to die! Is this the same man who said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” That’s exactly what his three friends are thinking! Let’s set the scene. Job has shaved his head and torn his robe. He’s covered head to toe with throbbing, painful sores. He’s not at his house. If his son’s house was attached to his house it would be severely damaged and it’s no longer "occupodo"! He sits in the ashes outside the city. His wife tries to comfort him, but she’s struggling. Job has many friends but only three show up - Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. May I remind you why they came! Find Job 2:11! As they sit with Job for seven days and seven nights they hear Job register his complaints before God. They can’t take it anymore so they stop comforting and start confronting! Now we are about to enter the largest section of Job. Chapters 4 – 31 are a three round debate. Eliphaz & Bildad speak 3 times, Zophar speaks twice and Job responds to them all. Eliphaz is up first but before we read keep this in mind. Job chapters 3 through 42:6 are poetry! Not “Roses Are Red - Violets Are Blue - God Made Me Pretty - What Happened To you?”[iv] Job is dramatic poetry.[v] I prefer narrative. Here’s the story. I prefer history. I prefer facts. Poetry is beautiful, but it can be a bit repetitious, mysterious and even philosophical. But suffering is often mysterious. Remember, God never tells Job why he suffered. Eliphaz is up first. Job 4:1-8. Eliphaz is much more subtle. Bildad is not. Go to Job 8:1. (1-6) Bildad is bad. Zophar is just plain rude. Go to Job 11:1. (1-3) (11-15)
All three men are asking the same question in a different ways. If we could interview Job right now the question to ask him would be “Was your suffering the result of your own sin?” Because these three amigos here totally believe it is! He’s suffering because he sinned. Job, own up to what you’ve done and life will be good again! Job’s three friends aren’t the only ones who think this way! The common thread running through the Old Testament and bleeding into the New Testament is this. God blesses the obedient. God curses the disobedient. So put two and two together and the logical conclusion is that Job must have done something really bad. Jesus’ own disciples thought this way! Turn to John 9:1. (1-3) That’s also true of Job. Job is God’s proof. Job is God’s exception. But let’s be clear here. Can sin lead to suffering? YES! I told you a story a two weeks ago about Governor Kasich sparing Joseph Murphy’s life. Joseph Murphy was to die by lethal injection on Oct. 18. Instead he will never get out of prison because he murdered a 72 year old widow in 1987. Kasich granted him clemency because of his horrific childhood. Those working this case said Murphy was destined for disaster. His parents sinned against God by abusing him as a boy. Murphy sinned against God by taking what didn’t belong to him. Everyone has suffered in this case. Sin will do that. Our sin can create suffering – emotional, physical suffering, but not in Job’s case. Job did nothing wrong, but his friends refused to believe that!
James tells us the Bible acts as a mirror. We can see ourselves in the pages of Scripture. When I read about Job’s three friends I wonder if I act like them more than I realize. Walk thru the Bible Ministries has an awesome little book called, “Talk Thru the Old Testament.” In that book Eliphaz is seen as a theologian, Bildad is a historian and Zophar is a moralist[vi], but all three become legalistic! I bet most of us here today have never heard of Pastor Joseph Nelms? He became “famous” because of this prayer he prayed to open a NASCAR race this past July. (VIDEO) As you can imagine some people liked it and some people didn’t. I liked it. He was praying about his smoking hot wife, not somebody else’s wife. Whether it’s Job’s friends here, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day or any of us. Legalists struggle in seeing any other way but their way. Legalists often place God in box and they determine what he will or will not do. Go to Job 42:7.
Last week I asked the question, “How do we help someone who is suffering?” #1: Don’t pretend you understand someone’s pain! #2: Just be there. #3: Point people to God! Today I’m wondering, “How do we help someone who is depressed?” Job himself provides perspective. Holy people can get depressed. Job is described as blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. Yet he became depressed. People who love God can become depressed. Help people see they are not the only one!
Verse 7 gives us a second answer. Provide sound counsel. If given the opportunity share what’s true about God! God is good. God is great. He doesn’t play favorites. Sometimes God does what He wants and we are not privy to his reasoning, but he’s worth trusting. Ignore bad counsel! Verse 8 is huge. Go ask God for forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot take place without an enormous sacrifice. Just look at Jesus. Every burnt offering in the Old Testament points us to the supreme offering of Jesus in the NT. The truth is if you are depressed – you can’t become free without Jesus! So do this… let’s finish verse 8. PRAY! What do I pray? Pray what David prayed in Psalm 57:1: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Now don’t forget verse 9! We read the Bible today. God spoke to us today. What has he said to you? Are you going to do it? Are you depressed? Do you know someone who is depressed?
[ii] Logos Bible Software: Depression
[iii] June Hunt, Biblical Counseling Keys, Depression
[v] Wilkinson & Boa, Talk thru the Old Testament¸140
[vi] Wilkinson & Boa, Talk thru the Old Testament¸147