Job’s Friends

I could swap hard-luck stories with Job, but not for long. When it comes to misfortunes, I’m not in his league. On the other hand, looking over medical records before a recent checkup reminded me that my life hasn’t been perfect.

It could be worse. I might believe that God is smiting me because I’m predestined to a life of misery and eternity of torment. Or because I’ve committed some unspecified sin. Or have friends telling me that God only smites bad guys.

It could be better, too.

I deal with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Also autism spectrum disorder, depression and PTSD. I’m a mess. (March 19, 2018; December 31, 2017)

My psychiatric issues made and make parts of my life excessively interesting. So did being born with defective hips.

On the ‘up’ side, I’ve had many opportunities to think about abilities and their opposites. I’ve felt that ‘it’s not fair,’ but don’t remember believing it. Not for very long, anyway

A Work in Progress

Feeling that I don’t deserve my ailments, or that Christians shouldn’t have problems, wouldn’t do me much good.

Suffering, joy, any experience, can be a reason to pray and rejoice. (1 Thessalonians 5:1618; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2648)

Remembering and believing that thanksgiving and joy matter when I’m in a rough patch is hard, at best. But it’s still a good idea.

Disabled or not, I’m a person, a human being: with dignity and responsibilities.1 (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 357, 17311738)

Having disabilities doesn’t make me better or worse than folks who don’t. What’s different are the opportunities and limitations I deal with.

“…Disability is not a punishment; indeed it is a privilege, which God uses to manifest his love and crown all with the glory of the resurrection….”
(“Persons with disabilities: The Image of God and a Place of His Wonders,” Preparation for the Jubilee Day, The Preparatory Committee (March 2, 2000))

“…The lives of those who are handicapped are no less sacred than the lives of those who are not. I know that you share this conviction with me. At the same time, we are also aware that the quality of life of the handicapped is often not in keeping with their own inner worth….”
(“To members of the Very Special Arts International Organization,” St. John Paul II (December 5, 1987))

Thinking of myself as a person isn’t hard. Seeing my disabilities as a “privilege?” That’s a work in progress.

Accepting Life’s Ups, Downs and Nosedives

Job 1:15 says he “was a blameless and upright man” with seven sons, three daughters, a large household and more wealth than most.

He was like today’s Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates: pretty much the opposite of destitute.

Until the trouble started.

Several messengers came, telling Job that his financial empire was kaput. That was bad news. But at least he still had his family.

A fourth messenger arrived with more bad news. Job’s children were dead, killed by a freak storm. Then boils — painful sores — covered Job’s skin. All of it. Job was not having a good day.

By the time we get to Job 2:8, Job’s sitting on an ash heap, covered with boils and scraping himself with a potsherd. He gets his first bit of advice:

“Then his wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!’
“But he said to her, ‘You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?’ Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
(Job 2:910)

With Friends Like These – – –

You know the rest of the story. Three friends show up with “sympathy and comfort” for Job. (Job 2:11)

All three told Job that he should repent. They figured God rewards good behavior and punishes folks who act badly. That meant Job’s financial and family losses must be his fault.

Job denied doing anything wrong, so they kept telling him.

I think Eliphaz was hitting his stride in the second and third speeches:

“The wicked is in torment all his days,
and limited years are in store for the ruthless;
“The sound of terrors is in his ears;
when all is prosperous, a spoiler comes upon him.”
(Job 15:2021)

“Is it because of your piety that he reproves you—
that he enters into judgment with you?
“Is not your wickedness great,
your iniquity endless?”
(Job 22:45)

Millennia later, some folks still agree with Eliphaz. I don’t.

Wealth and poverty, illness and health aren’t sure signs of virtue or sin. Stuff happens. What matters is what I do with what I’ve got. (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5; Catechism, 828, 1509, 2211, 22882291, 22922296, 2448, 2540, 2544)

Carrots, Sticks and Me

I think God is large and in charge, and that doing what’s right is a good idea. (Genesis 1:12:2; Psalms 115:3; Catechism, 268269, 279, 301, 1733)

Believing that God smites ‘bad guys’ and rewards ‘good guys’ promptly? Not such a good idea.

Simple ‘carrot and stick’ belief may be easy.

But it’s too close to upholding the moral superiority of the healthy and wealthy for my taste. Or circumstances.

Believing that God pays attention and will reward or punish me is one thing.

Doing ‘good works’ because I expect rewards, or avoiding ‘being bad’ because I fear punishment? That’d make me a mercenary or — as St. Basil put it — a slave. (Catechism, 1021, 1828)

There’s what our Lord said about the man born blind, too. And those folks killed when a tower in Siloam fell. (Luke 13:45; John 9:13)

The way I see it, God loves us and wants to adopt us. Each of us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I accepted God’s offer. Since I’m ‘part of the family,’ loving God and acting like I mean it makes sense.

Expecting reward or punishment matters, to an extent. I let myself look forward to God’s ‘Creation 2.0,’ for example. But it’s not at the top of my list of ‘reasons why.’

That’s my opinion about disabilities and being human. Let’s see what a recent pope said:

“…The Psalmist, … is convinced that God will already reward the righteous in this life, giving them a happy old age, and that he will punish evildoers before long.
“Actually, as Job affirmed and Jesus was to teach, history can never be so clearly interpreted. Thus, the Psalmist’s vision becomes a plea to the just God ‘on high for ever’, to enter into the sequence of human events, to judge them and make good shine forth….”
(General Audience, St. John Paul II (September 3, 2003))

“…Job however challenges the truth of the principle that identifies suffering with punishment for sin. And he does this on the basis of his own opinion. For he is aware that he has not deserved such punishment, and in fact he speaks of the good that he has done during his life. In the end, God himself reproves Job’s friends for their accusations and recognizes that Job is not guilty. His suffering is the suffering of someone who is innocent and it must be accepted as a mystery, which the individual is unable to penetrate completely by his own intelligence….”
(“Salvifici Doloris,” St. John Paul II (February 11, 1984))

More of my view of life, death, health, choices and making sense:


1 Dignity, duties and being human:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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4 Responses to Job’s Friends

  1. Huh, I hadn’t thought much about that before. Goes to show how little I know about Scripture and doctrine, then.

    Anyway, perhaps all those challenges are like the exams, homework, and other such assignments we have to deal with as students in school? Like, whether one is in the honor roll or not, they still have to show how they’re really doing with substantial proof time and time again. Ah, and that made me recall stuff about how even angels are also tested by God, if I remember correctly…

    Also, as I’ve been thinking about religious stuff as I went through certain notable rappers’ lyrics about such (like 2Pac as Makaveli and Kendrick Lamar basically expressing the belief that religion doesn’t need human officials and organization, but that’s another story), I suddenly remembered segments in Kendrick Lamar’s “FEAR.,” particularly the digital-release-only voicemail segments where his cousin Carl (a Hebrew Israelite, I think) talks about why minorities suffer, in which he expresses a belief that’s basically similar to Eliphaz’s. And now I’m getting more of the feeling that God’s requiring me to go down the path of the rapper or, at least, cross paths with that path, which amuses me either way, hahaha~

    • The “test” metaphor or model has been used quite a bit. My guess is that it reflects at least part of a facet of the ‘why does this happen’ question.

      Considering what’s in the last part of Job, I’m not eager to adopt the expressed opinions of Eliphaz or the other two friends – – –

      “And after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘…You have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.” (Job 42:7)

      That bit has God saying that he’s angry: a familiar bit of imagery to this day.

      It’s accurate, to the extent that it’s very easy for us to perceive God’s reaction to yet another mess we make as anger.

      Over the last few millennia, some of us have realized that – although we can’t fully understand God – God’s “anger” is more a matter of distorted perception on our end. (I talked about what we can, and can’t, understand; perceptions; and that sort of thing last year. http://brendans-island.com/catholic-citizen/living-with-consequences/#seeking )

      I’m not familiar with the rappers you mention, but have noticed that many ‘creative types’ seem to understand a great deal more about reality and human existence than some tightly-would Christians. What the Catholic Church actually has been saying, and what some noisy Catholics say – – – is another topic. Topics.

      Thanks for responding!

      • Even with all the chaos and conflict, the value of dialogue and life still shines, indeed…and it can be seen through even the most unlikable, I guess. And even our distorted perception still makes God important, alright.

        And hey, you’re welcome, good sir! ^_^

  2. Pingback: Makoto Naegi, Dumb Luck, and Emotional Will | The Overlord Bear's Den

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