by Pastor Matt Bishop
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Blessed is the one whom God corrects (Job 5:17).
I grew up in an era where children were still smacked when disobedient. All of that is a bit of a minefield – strong views on either side! I mention it, though, because I remember one time when I saw a ‘smacker’ saying to the ‘smackee’, ‘One day you’ll thank me for this!’ Yeah, right! Needless to say, it seemed pretty empty and completely unlikely. My fellow child felt no warmth towards the smacker or comfort from their words – probably only embitterment.
The words in today’s text are from Job’s friend Eliphaz. He is trying to comfort Job, who is wretchedly sitting in ashes, scraping his sores with broken pottery and grieving the loss of all he holds dear. ‘Blessed is the one whom God corrects.’ Do you think it would comfort Job right there at that moment? Sitting desolate in his pain and anguish, would Job really be comforted with Eliphaz’s confident words about an eventual restoration, even if it were true?
When people are profoundly miserable, grieving or hurting, it’s natural to want to console them. But the less we know about them and their personal situation, the easier it is to get it wrong. It is especially risky to stray into the area of understanding why things happen.
For example, Scripture indeed attributes discipline to God in some circumstances (Hebrews 12:4–13). But how do we know what’s played out in the heavenly realm (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–8)? What’s God, what’s evil, what’s gravity (Luke 13:1–5)? We don’t know. It’s not hard to further deepen the pain of the sufferer as we blunder around. Praying, writing a card, cooking their favourite meal or doing some jobs for them, if your relationship is close enough, will likely be more helpful ways of letting them know you care.
That said, a good thing to be confident in is how the sort of restoration spoken of in Job 5:18–27 – and many other places in Scripture – does have its fulfilment in Christ. Having suffered for us, Christ in his resurrection is the promise of heavenly life for us. It’s only through that lens we can ever really see the sentiment behind Eliphaz’s words being true – words such as ‘At destruction and famine you shall laugh’ (Job 5:22a). The thing is, that’s not a quick out-the-door of Sunday worship conversation. Nevertheless, we can always thank Christ for his cross that leads to life and for the prospect of faith strengthened in suffering. And sometimes, we are even truly privileged to console a fellow believer in such ‘Christful’ caring words of his promise!
Lord Jesus, draw near to all those we know who suffer this day. Help us to listen well, pray fervently and gently be your hands and feet in whatever way is best. In your name, we pray. Amen.