Those who have suffered, those who have come alongside suffering, those of us who receive the compassionate love of Christ through suffering, we feel the cruelty of Job’s companions acutely.
I’ve written already about these faux friends, who really are the worst. Here’s how my favourite Bible companion puts it:
They express orthodox religious belief, often in the form of conventional wisdom sayings for which Biblical parallels can be adduced.
God is just. He punishes evildoers. Human suffering is therefore punitive. Job should repent.
The irony of all this orthodoxy is that it does not apply to Job’s situation, as Job protests throughout and as God confirms at the end (Job 42:7-8).
We experience profoundly the cruelty of the words of these insufferable, sanctimonious gits. We can’t help but cover our ears as they clang their theological gongs in pious outrage against the cries of despair they find so inconvenient and objectionable.
“Is your fear of God not your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” (Job 4:6), they question.
“Have you followed Matthew 18?” they cry.
“Why are you so negative?” they ask.
“Surely you brought this on yourself,” they declare.
These are the pernicious people Solomon talks about. The ceremonious clouds and wind without rain. Those atmospheric cirrus clouds, wispy, detached, floating along, all high and mighty. So very religious.
They are deceitful like intermittent streams, like the torrents of a brook which drains away. When they dry up, they vanish. When it is hot, they disappear from their place (Job 6:15-17). These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever (2 Pet. 2:17).
For what does the surgical precision of a theological argument prove in times of great pain?
Of what use is the iron hammer of honesty, pounding violently against soft iron in the smithing process – poising it for destruction!
What comfort comes from those who inspect the vocabulary of despair? Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind (Job 6:26)?
Look here instead. Speak rightly of God. Humble yourself before the Word made flesh and learn the language of love in the time of trauma. Here are clouds heavy with rain and refreshment, weighty in their witness of God’s power and promises, full of presence, glowing with glory.
For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend, so that he does not abandon the fear of the Almighty.Job 6:14
In suffering, in standing with those who suffer, we gather with Job in the sight of God’s eighty unfathomable questions, symbol of His proclamation of freedom from oppression out of the whirlwind of anguish. He pierces our hearts with things too wonderful, things we did not know before. Our eye sees God (Job 42:5).