Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Most Useless Guys In The Bible

I recently came to the conclusion that the most useless guys in the Bible were Job's friends. You may recall the story. Job is put through some serious hurt. In the midst of his misery, his friends arrive and "comfort" him.

The nature of their "comfort" is to rise to defend God, claiming that Job's misfortune is the consequence of Job's prior bad acts. They are useless for a couple reasons: 1) they are mistaken in their explanation of Job's misfortune. There is a tacit assumption underlying their remarks, God is under suspicion of wrongdoing in permitting Job's misfortune and must be defended. 2) God doesn't need their help to assert and vindicate his righteousness. As a result, the friends "comfort" consists of accusing Job of prior bad acts.

At the end of the story, God shows up and instead of vindicating Job, he discloses that there's plenty of blame to go around. It's improper to engage in theodicy. It's improper to demand of God an explanation. God is God. If God is not good, there is no Good. If God does that which hurts us that we don't understand, he doesn't owe us an explanation, we owe him the benefit of the doubt. And incidentally, Job's friends were wrong to suspect Job.

Let's suppose you're Job. It's altogether proper to lament the negative circumstances. There is a whole book of the Bible filled with Lamentations. Do that.

Let's suppose your friend is Job. How can you be something better than useless? For one thing, don't assume the negative circumstance is due to your friend's sin. If you love your friend, you owe him the benefit of the doubt. Assuming the negative circumstance is a judgement for sin indicates that you're using your doubt about your friend to think the worst of him. Don't do that. If your friend hurts, you should hurt. Compassion means sharing someone's passion, suffering alongside.

Encourage your friend. The Navy Seals are a tough, elite group. Every Navy Seal goes through training and part of that training is Hell Week. Now, let's suppose you're idling on the beach and you see your friend the Seal struggling up the beach burdened with some heavy military equipment. He's suffering, but he's suffering because he's BETTER than most of his peers. And you are idling on the beach. You can't deny your friend is suffering, but you can remind him that hard training is only for elite troops, and despite the present suffering, there will be something better on the other side of it.

Pressure makes diamonds.

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