What Not to Say
Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For God wounds but also binds up; God injures, but those same hands also heal. – Job 5:17-18 (NIV)
Oh, Eliphaz the Temanite, you really stuck your foot in it this time. In the beginning of the book of Job, a righteous person loses everything that mattered and winds up miserable. Now here comes Eliphaz—supposedly Job’s friend—saying there must be an explanation. “You must have done something wrong. If you confess, then God will give you back everything.”
Blaming the victim while also offering empty promises that the irreparable will be repaired? Eliphaz is dead wrong. God even says so.
Bad things do, in fact, happen to good people. There is no simple moral arithmetic that explains why some people get all the breaks and others have nothing but heartbreak. Living a moral life is not a divine insurance policy to fend off disaster. That’s not how fate and fortune work, I’m sorry to say. Don’t take my word for it, though. That is the whole argument of the book of Job.
Here is what God promises in the face of heartbreak and loss, here is the truth about God revealed in the book of Job: God listens to our heartbreak.
God heard every word that Job had to say. When Job fumed with anger, God was listening. When Job cried out in grief and despair, God was listening. When Job did his utmost to blaspheme against God, hurt God’s feelings and throw God’s promises right back in the divine countenance, God was listening.
God will listen when we are angry. When we scream in God’s face in pain and grief, God is wise enough and good enough not to offer explanations. Because grieving people don’t need answers. We need the comfort of knowing we aren’t alone, that someone is listening.
God, hear now these prayers of your people, as we lay our heartbreaks before you…
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.