So Job Was A Dimwit, Huh?

What would you call someone who lost everything - their belongings, their livelihood, their children, their health - and who, in their pain, pours out their heartbreak to God as honestly as they can, real and raw and unpolished and unedited?

What would you call them?  What would you call Job of the Bible as he pours out his heartbreak to God, chapter after chapter?

My pastor, in a recent post he wrote, criticized Job for daring to question the Almighty, for speaking so harshly honestly to God about his pain and suffering and the "unfairness" of life.  He claimed Job was chastised by God, basically saying that Job got put in his place when God got all up in his face and blasted him for several chapters with the message of "Who do you think you are, Job!?!"

And just what did my pastor call Job, for daring to speak to God the way he did?

He called Job "dimwitted."

A dimwit!

Um, okay, sure, ... a "dimwit" is someone with limited intelligence.  And we humans are certainly "dimwitted" compared to God.  Our view of Him and understanding of Him is limited.

But from the sound of it, my pastor didn't mean "dimwit" as a matter-of-fact description of us compared to God.  He seemed to mean it more as a condemnation against Job for daring to say the things he said, almost as if my pastor was trying to say "Who does Job think he is, talking to God so boldly and rudely!?!  I would never talk to God like that!  But he got what he deserved when God blasted him in the following chapters.  How improper Job was!  How unhumble!  How wrong!  What a dimwit!"

Honestly, this criticism of Job bothered me.  Because out of all the people on the earth at that time, Job was actually tops, in God's eyes.

"Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.'"  (Job 1:8)

There was no one else on earth like Job.  He was probably the most righteous man at the time, the most God-honoring.  So much so that he stood out to God, that Satan asked to tempt him and to trip him up.

And my pastor had the nerve to call Job a dimwit!

(I have to stop calling him "my" pastor.  I refuse to listen to him preach and haven't listened to him for a long time.  In fact, I don't even really attend our church anymore because of this pastor's smug, dogmatic, Calvinist preaching.  And this example of him calling Job a "dimwit" is just another example of where this man's heart and mind is, and why he bothers me so much.)

I can't imagine what would inspire a common, ordinary man of today to criticize the most righteous man at that time, especially given that he's never been in Job's shoes.  It's so easy to criticize how someone else struggles in their faith and how they relate to God in their pain when we ourselves never experienced what they have.

And this is why it kind of broke my heart, too.  This pastor has revealed how he really sees those who struggle deeply with faith-shaking heartache, like Job did. 

After the tragedies came, Job sat in silence for a while, stunned, listening to all the "good" advice and "godly" lectures from his "righteous" friends.  But then he spoke up, and he began pouring out his heartache honestly - to his friends and to the Lord.  He didn't hold back.  He didn't polish up what he said.  He didn't edit it, trying to fool God, making it sound like he was doing better than he was.

No!  He poured it all out at the Lord's feet honestly.  He opened his heart and bled his feelings all over the place.  Vulnerably.  He ripped off all the masks and stood before the Lord nakedly, even if it meant saying some unpleasant things.  No pretense.  No polish.  No phoniness.

And my pastor called him a "dimwit" for doing so.

It wasn't too long ago that I decided it was time to be more like Job.  I was going through a really hard emotional time (as I often do, it seems), a test of my faith.  And after years of trying so hard to be so "proper" in my attitude, so "polished" in my prayers, so careful about keeping the ugly thoughts and feelings to myself so that I didn't offend God, I decided it was time to just try being real instead.  To be honest with Him.  To lay it all on the table.  To hold nothing back.  

Doesn't He deserve that, after all?  He is our Creator.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows how best to handle our concerns and pain.  We aren't fooling Him anyway with our Pharisee-like efforts to polish ourselves up and look better than we are.  In fact, all that does is create distance and walls between Him and us, blocking Him off from parts of our hearts, preventing us from fully embracing His comfort and love and healing.

But ... maybe I'm just too "dimwitted" to know any better!    

My pastor thinks Job was a dimwit for his honest cries.  But do you know what I think?

I think Job did it right!  

And I think God was pleased with Job, even as Job poured out the unpleasant things he said about God.  

Because I think God is all about honesty, about realness.  Yes, He wants us to honor Him in our words and attitude.  He wants our respect, and He wants us to humbly submit to Him.  Those are great and proper things, when it all comes from a place of trust and love, our love for Him and His love for us.

But when we aren't at that point of genuine love and trust yet - when we are still at a point of being too hurt to trust, too angry or heartbroken to love others, too insecure or broken to accept love and forgiveness, or maybe we are simply going through an unexpected hardship that's crushing our heart and faith  - then I think He just wants us to be honest and real with Him, no matter how ugly and broken we may be.  That's the only way to get to the point of genuine love and trust, to make it through the hardship with our faith intact.

He doesn't want us to hide from Him in fear - fear that we might offend Him or repel Him or push Him away or the fear that He won't love us anymore if He sees "the real me."  I think hiding from Him and "protecting" Him from our real feelings dishonors Him more than our honesty ever could.  It shows that we don't trust Him, that we don't believe in His love and care, that we don't think He can handle it, that we don't feel He's worth getting close to, that we would rather protect ourselves than risk drawing near to Him.  

If we are full of pain and doubts and bad feelings and ugly thoughts, I think He wants us to tell Him.  He wants us to let Him into our inner worlds, to open up to Him all the closed-off parts of our hearts, to trust Him with our deepest secrets and hurts.  So that He can draw near to us and help heal the painful things, fix the broken things, and make something good out of the bad things.  

I think He would rather see our "ugly real selves" than our "pretty polished masks."  Everyone in the world gets to see our masks, but only a trusted few are worth showing our real selves to.  And God wants to be our most trusted "friend."  Because He loves us more than anyone else ever could.  He wants us to throw ourselves on Him, all parts of ourselves, even all the ugly things we think and feel.  Even about Him.  

I think He would rather have us cry out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?!" when we hurt, when we feel He let us down ... than have us force a smile and say, "Whatever You want, God, is fine with me" while our hearts are breaking.  

Because that's the only way to a real relationship with Him.  To letting down the walls we put up between us and Him.  To opening up our hearts and lives fully to Him.  To honoring Him as the Lord of all.  

King David didn't get to be "a man after God's own heart" by putting on a polished, shiny mask.  He was a man after God's own heart because he poured his whole heart out to God passionately, honestly, even when it wasn't pretty. 

See, the thing is ... I think God values our relationship with Him, that He really does want a real relationship with us.  Because He loves us.  Because we matter to Him.  Because it touches His heart.  Because God is a relational Being, not an emotionless, antisocial hermit.

But that's the thing about Calvinists though.  They don't put any emphasis on a relationship with God, on how God loves us and wants to be near us.  Their highest, and just about only, emphasis is on God using us to get more glory for Himself.  They think God created us simply so He could show off His glory and get even more glory.  To them, we have no real value or purpose except for bringing God more glory.  And so the idea that God might actually want to be near us just because He loves us and wants a relationship with us is foreign to them.  Because it would put too much value on people.  More value than they think we should have.  More value than they think God attributes to us. 

To them, God's glory is somehow lessened if He values us too much or loves us too much.  (As if anything about us can somehow change how glorious God is!)  And so Calvinists reduce humans to as low as they can reduce us, smooshing us into the ground, viewing us as virtually valueless and worthless other than for the glory God gets through us.  

It's sad.  

I think Calvinism is extremely destructive to a genuine, loving, trusting relationship with God.  Because who would want to trust or love or get close to a God who (according to Calvinism) causes people to sin and then punishes them for it?  A God who causes people to be unbelievers so that He can send them to hell, supposedly for His glory somehow?  A God who only really loves the elect and who only sent Jesus to die for the elect  (Calvinist authors have outright said that God doesn't love everyone and that Jesus didn't die for everyone, but only for the elect)?  A God who is only concerned with His glory and who doesn't really care about us other than for the glory He can squeeze from us? 

This is why I think Calvinism hurts God's heart too.  Because it contradicts God's own Word, about how He loves all men, wants all men to be saved, died for all men, and calls all men to believe in Him.  It destroys God's loving, forgiving, just, righteous, gracious character.  And because God Himself really does want a genuine relationship with us.  He wants us to love Him and trust Him and lean on Him and let Him love us and care for us.  Because we matter to Him, simply because we do.  Because He wants to loves us.

I have been starving for some good old-fashioned "God loves you and you matter to Him" messages.  Some "God wants to help you because He cares for you" sermons.  But I don't get that from my church, so I have to look elsewhere (books from godly authors and Tony Evans' sermons online).

I think this criticism of Job is just another result of my pastor's Calvinism.  Job dared to question God, to speak openly to God, even if it was "improper."  And this, in the Calvinist's mind, is horribly unglorifying to God.  And since God (according to the Calvinist) only cares about His glory and not about people or about His relationship with them, then a Calvinist must admonish someone who speaks to God the way Job did.  In their minds, they are "defending" God and His glory (as if He needs us to defend Him).  

"Job, you are such a dimwit!  You are talking to God all wrong!"

(But if, as Calvinists believe, God causes us to do everything we do, then God caused Job to say those improper things.  So then a Calvinist is only really defending God against God.  So why speak up against any wrong thing that anyone does, if God is the cause of it all for His glory and we can't control how we act anyway?  It doesn't make sense.  Calvinism doesn't make sense.)

But ... as I said ... I think Job did it right.

And I think my pastor is missing the whole point of the book of Job.  It's not just about God's glory and His magnificence, about Him emphasizing how He is the Creator of all and how He is so far above us humans, about Him showing off His glory.  The point isn't that God chastised Job, that He got all up in Job's face and put him in his place.

The point is that ... God talked to Job!

All through the first half of the book of Job, Job's friends gave lectures about God and about how to be a good, godly person and about what Job must have been doing wrong to deserve what he got.  They sounded like they understood God and His ways and what He wants, like they were speaking rightly about God and life.  They thought their advice was good and godly, that they were righteously correcting Job for how wrongly he treated God and how wrongly he handled his pain.  They did their best to defend God's glory from that dimwit Job.  

And yet there was Job - the only one there who had lost everything but his wife and life, who lost his animals, his livelihood, his children, his health - shoving aside their nonsense, their "godly" admonishment, their super-spiritual lessons, pouring out before God all the ugly, improper, unacceptable thoughts and feelings he had.  Unpolished.  Unedited.  Real.  Raw.

And the friends were horrified.  And my pastor was indignant.  And I can just imagine them saying ...  

"How dare Job talk to God like that!  Who does Job think he is!?!  We must defend God's glory and honor.  We must protect His feelings and show how righteous we are compared to Job, how we - good, polished, proper God-followers - would never talk to God like that."

But while my pastor views God's response to Job as a blasting, as God condemning Job and putting him in his place, I view it as "God talked to Job."

Job had poured out his heart honestly to God.  Job related to God personally.  And so God poured out His heart back to Job, relating to him personally, chapter after chapter.

The friends, however, who thought they were so righteous and godly and God-defending, barely even got a glance from God.  They had rambled on and on about God in their high and lofty and holier-than-thou ways, and they thought they were defending God's glory and honor, that they were speaking up for God, shaming Job for the things he said against God ... 

... and yet God barely said a thing to them, other than "I am angry with you and your friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.  So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.  My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.  You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."  (Job 42:7-8)

Job, the dimwit, had spoken rightly of God ... even though Job, the dimwit, poured out many ugly thoughts and feelings.  But the friends - who were so "righteous" that they would never speak to God like that - spoke wrongly of God.  And now they had to go to Job, the dimwit, for sacrifice and prayer so that God would have mercy on them.  

Amazing!  And very telling about what God values, what He desires.

He didn't want the "righteous" lectures of the holier-than-thou friends.  He wanted the honest cries of Job's hurting heart.  

Yes, Job said some harsh things to God.  But Job poured his heart out to God honestly, not trying to hide things, not trying to trick God into thinking he was handling things better than he was.  He broke down the barriers between him and God.  He drew near to God and let God into his pain, instead of just pulling away in heartache and confusion.  He got real with God, instead of putting on a "good Christian" mask.  

e talked to God, even if it wasn't pretty.  He talked to God, instead of just talking about God, like the friends did.  

And so God talked to Job.  

God drew near to Job.

God got real with Job.

(Counselors know that it's not the couples who fight that you need to worry about the most.  It's the couples who have stopped fighting.  Because at least the first couple cares enough to keep talking to each other.  But when they have given up on each other, when they don't care anymore, they stop talking and stop fighting.  Job and God "fought" with each other; but God would barely talk to the friends.)

My pastor's post made me feel badly not only for Job, but also for those who are hurting deeply, for the ones who need to pour their pain out to God but who will now feel ashamed if they try to relate to God so honestly and openly.  Scolded.  Like a bad Christian.  Like a dimwit.  What deeply hurting person is going to want to go to a pastor like this for help with their pain, when a pastor makes them feel like a dimwit for being so honest about their pain.

This pastor might think he's doing right, trying to defend God's glory, criticizing those who dare to be "improper" toward God, who are "too honest" with God about all the bad things they are thinking and feeling.  

But to me, this pastor is no different than Job's friends.  The friends who scolded Job, who "defended" God with all sorts of lofty, righteous-sounding lectures, who were more concerned with criticizing than having compassion ... but who ultimately barely even got a glance from God, other than the scolding God gave them.  

I do not think God is simply all about using us to get more glory.  I think God wants a real, honest relationship with us.  I think God values the relationships He has with us because He loves us, because we matter to Him simply because He made us and loves us and wants a relationship with us.  He is a relational being.  And that's why I think Job did it right.  Because he was real and honest in his relationship with God.  He drew near to God, even when he was hurting.  And so God drew near to him.

Anyway, I wrote the following section about Job (edited a bit for this post) a long time ago, after our pastor read off a list of sins in church one day that included "depression."  There was no help offered, no advice, no compassion, no clarifications about what kind of depression or about how the person is trying to handle it.  From what I heard, it was just "depression is a sin."  And I think that's horrifying!  And so I wrote this, in response to what he said (from my "Is Depression A Sin?" post):

            The issue of depression came up recently when I was talking with some other women from church.  Apparently, our pastor had read off a list of sins and it included depression.  And one of the women asked the rest of us what we thought about that.  As someone who struggles with depressed feelings a lot, it got me really wondering if it’s right to call it “sin.”
            Of course, the word depression doesn’t appear in the Bible, so this issue requires some conjecture, some outside-the-box thinking.  But my first reaction to this question was:  “Calling it a sin isn’t going to help anyone who is struggling with it.  You can’t just say, 'You are sinning, and you need to stop it,' and expect that someone is going to be able to go, 'Oh, you’re right.  I’ll stop being depressed and start feeling joyful now.  Thanks for the help.'”
            It doesn’t happen that way.  And it may actually be more harmful to talk like that.  In some ways, I think calling depression a sin is irresponsible.  It will only add to the pain and self-loathing someone feels instead of helping at all.  And it will make them want to pull back and suffer in silence.
            When I was a happy, shiny, exuberant, young Christian, we talked about this kind of thing once.  And my thinking was that depression was a sin, of sorts.  Because you were not “having joy in the Lord” like a “good Christian” is supposed to.  And you were choosing to look at all the negatives about yourself and your life instead of focusing on Christ’s love for you and on your trust in Him to carry you through life.  You were more focused on yourself than on God, making your pain and heartache an idol.  And that is sin.  A kind of pride, acting like your view of yourself has more weight than God’s view of you.
            I’m not saying that I now think that view is wrong.  There is a lot of Bible truth in it.  But as I have gotten older and experienced more losses and heartache, I have come to realize that it’s not as simple as that.  It’s not a black-and-white issue.  And it is irresponsible, insensitive, and uncompassionate to simply say “depression is a sin,” as though it’s in the same realm as other sins people commit and can stop anytime, such as stealing, lying, cheating, having an affair, etc.  (And it doesn’t take into account hormonal or chemical imbalances, a history of family mental illness, different personalities, broken families and broken hearts, and what people might be doing to work through it.)
            Oftentimes, depression isn’t something you choose to do; it’s something that happens to you, even though you don’t want it and maybe did nothing to cause it.  And it takes a lot more than “stop sinning and be joyful” to work through it.
            To me, that is exactly the kind of “pat answer” or simplistic, judgmental Christian notion that I have been shedding over the years as God has broken me in many ways, stripped me of my own cocky, confident wisdom and ideas of how everything “should be.”  It’s the kind of thing someone would say who has never struggled with real gut-wrenching depression but who is passing judgment on someone who has.  Or someone who has successfully gotten through it and is now looking down smugly on those who are having a harder time getting through it.  (In fact, maybe we could add “uncompassionate, simplistic judgmentalism” to that list of sins.  Because even though those words are not in the Bible, the idea is there, especially when you look at the Pharisees.)
            I don’t think it’s the sadness that is the sin.  We will all feel sad.  We will all struggle with negative feelings about ourselves.  Some a lot more than others, especially if you did not have the warm, loving family and upbringing that other people had.  But sadness is a feeling.  And feelings are neither sinful or not sinful; they just are.
            “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  (Ephesians 4:26-27)
            It’s not feeling angry that is a sin; it’s what you do with the anger that makes it sin or not.  And I think it’s the same with sadness, with depression.
            I think when people call depression a sin, what they should mean is that to hopelessly wallow in depression is a sin, to give yourself over to it is a sin, to embrace it is a sin.
          But there is a difference between struggling with depression and settling into depression.

            While there are short times that I might settle into depression, for the most part I struggle with depression.  (And I am not talking about severe clinical depression here, but more of intense sadness and ache.  If you struggle severely with depression to the point where you cannot function and are thinking of harming yourself, you need to seek professional help!  And remember that we are all human.  We all need help sometimes.  We take our turns being the helper or the helpee, so don’t be ashamed when it’s your turn to be helped.  Someday, it will be your turn to help someone else.  And most likely, the best help you can give will come from the struggles you went through.  So no shame!  Only growth!)
            Settling into depression is wallowing in it without taking any godly steps to fight it.  It’s making depression your heart’s home.  It’s choosing to put down your spiritual weapons and to agree with Satan about all the negative things about yourself and your life.  It’s agreeing with him about all the ways God has been unfair to you and with the idea that God couldn’t really love you, care about you, handle your problems, or make anything good out of your pain.  It’s choosing to let go of your faith in God because life is so hard and discouraging that you don't feel like you can trust Him anymore.  It’s trading in hope for hopelessness.  It's focusing on the temporary instead of the eternal.  And if sin is “missing God’s mark” then, yes, this is sin.  It’s missing the mark, what God wants for your life and your faith.  If we choose to let go of God and to cling to our feelings instead, then we are living in sin.
            But, as I see it, struggling with depression is not a sin.  Struggling with depression is choosing to battle against it, even if the battle is long and hard.  Even if it’s a daily uphill climb, full of setbacks and obstacles.  Quite honestly, isn’t that just life anyway.

Saul vs. Job vs. Job’s Friends
            Let’s look for a moment at a couple people from the Bible.
            In 1 Samuel 18 and up, we read how King Saul gives himself over to negative thoughts and feelings.  To jealousy and fears.  He broods over them.  He nurses these feelings until they consume him.  He had everything he could want, but he took his focus off of God and put it on his feelings, on all that was bothering him about his life, about David.  And losing his focus eventually led to his demise.  That was an unhealthy way to deal with his feelings.  It was destructive, and it was sin.
            But then there was Job, who was a righteous man.  He did nothing to deserve the tragedies that God allowed Satan to bring into his life.  He lost everything ... but he eventually found a more pure faith.  And it had to do with how he responded to the pain.  Let’s look at what Job did in response to the horrible circumstances God allowed into his life.
            First, even in his extreme anguish, he humbly threw himself before God’s “God-ness.”
            “”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  (Job 1:21)
            “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  (Job 2:10)
            Despite the incredible loss and pain, he threw himself at God.
            And then for a short time, he sits there with his friends in silence.  Job wallows for a little while, unable to pick himself up, to make himself “happy.”  There is a sense of “I can’t go on yet.  I need to sit here and process this.”
            And I don’t think we can accuse Job of sinning here.  Life has knocked him down hard, taken the wind out of him, and he needs to process, to let it all sink in, to sort it out, to come to grips with what has happened and how it has affected him.  He is stunned.  And all he can do in his stunned state is sit there in the ashes and scratch at his wounds with broken pottery, reevaluating what he knows of God and of life and of himself.  I’m sure he had a lot to think about.
           In his despair, he sat there in complete silence for days.

            But what did his friends do, in their efforts to help?
            These "brilliant and compassionate" men start giving all these pat-answers of how Job went wrong and what he should do and how God operates.  They act like they have it all figured out and that if Job can just see it their way and do it their way then things would be better.  Their wise, godly, loving support basically includes pearls-of-wisdom (paraphrased) such as these:
            1.  Who are you to be so discouraged about what God is doing in your life!?!  (Hmm, sounds a bit like, “You are sinning by letting yourself be so depressed.  Be joyful because God is in control.”)
            2.  You must be living in hidden sin, and so you got what you deserved because God wouldn’t do this to a righteous man.
            3.  Your kids got what they deserved!
            4.  You have no idea what you are talking about.
            5.  You are putting your faith in the wrong thing, not in God, and this is what happens to people who put their faith in the wrong thing.
            6.  God is using this to teach you a lesson, to mold you and make you a better person.  So you should accept it as a blessing.
            7.  If you would just listen to this wise, godly advice that God personally revealed to us, you would get back into God’s good graces and everything would be better again.
            8.  You need to be rebuked for the things you cry out against our mysterious, holy God.  Who do you think you are!?!
            9.  What has happened to you to make you so angry, to make you say such things about God?  (Umm . . . DUH!)
            10.  You need to set aside this anger and extol His work, praise Him, for He is magnificent and far beyond our understanding.
            11.  Basically, Job . . . you are doing it all wrong!  What a dimwit!
            They seem to have such godly-sounding advice for how to handle the pain ... even though they've never gone through that kind of pain before. Great friends, huh!
            I mean, it really did sound wise and godly.  There was a lot of truth in it.  And they were defending God’s character and actions against Job, who (in their judgment) was saying things that no wise, good Christian should say.  And this only further confirmed for them the idea that Job was in sin and being punished, which gave them more ammunition against him and made them “more righteous” by comparison.
            But Job doesn’t buy all that nonsense.  He knows he did nothing to deserve what happened.  And he still has too much wrestling to do with himself, his faith, and his God to just spring back up again and get on with life right now.  It’s not time to get up off the ground yet.  He is still processing.  It takes time.  Yet I can just hear his friends saying, “It's a sin to be so depressed.  Just get up and be joyful.”

            But while Job’s friends were busy teaching Job a lesson and defending God with righteous-sounding arguments, Job was doing this: “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free reign to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.”  (Job 10:1)  Sure, it might look like Job was wallowing, like Saul did.  But unlike Saul who turned from God, Job turned to God.  Job was struggling with faith issues and negative views of himself and God.  But what made all the difference is that he brought it all to God, honestly, transparently, even all the ugly things.  Things like this (paraphrased):
            "Cursed be the day I was born!  Cursed be my life!  I long to die!  I have no strength left to hope.  God Himself has taken aim at me with poisonous arrows.  I don’t think God is listening to my cries and pleas.  In fact, I think He would just multiply my wounds for no reason.  I did nothing to deserve this!  Even when I am resting, You terrify me with visions and dreams.  Why won’t You look away from me and leave me alone for a moment?  What have I done to You?  Why am I Your target?  You shaped me and made me, so why would You now destroy me?  Why didn’t You just let me die at birth?  Hear my cries, Lord, and answer me!  Why do You hide from me and consider me Your enemy?"
            All throughout Job’s replies to his friends, he speaks to God, too.  And he doesn’t polish it up.  He is in intense pain, and he speaks out of his intense pain.  He doesn’t try to talk himself out of it.  He doesn’t say, “Well, it’s a sin to be angry, depressed, and to lash out at God, so I better stop it and just accept what has happened and be happy.”
            No, he gives full vent to his fears, doubts, thoughts, feelings, and pain.  Sometimes, you have to go through this.  There is no way out sometimes – no way to acceptance, to truly trusting God - except through crying out honestly to God!

            To be fair, there was a lot of truth and wisdom in what his friends said.  It sounded like inspirational sermons you might hear at church.
            But the problem was . . . they had no idea what they were talking about in this particular situation.  They had all these fancy, godly-sounding arguments and they thought they were speaking up for God, but they had no idea what they were talking about.  They did not stop to consider Job’s particular circumstances.  They simply applied their pat-answers and blanket-statements and smug judgments to a situation they didn’t truly understand.  In their pious, self-inflated ignorance, they passed judgment on Job's relationship with God, on what Job was going through, and on how he was going through it.
            Surely a good God-follower wouldn’t talk like that.  A good God-follower would humbly and compliantly submit to what God allows into his life, accepting it in thankfulness and finding “joy in the Lord” because He is God and we are not.  A good God-follower would not let themselves get so depressed and upset and angry at God!

God’s Response
            But let’s look at what God says, after the friends have defended Him and given all their wise advice, and after Job has wallowed in his pain for awhile and poured out all his bitterness to the Lord.
            The first thing God does, starting in Job 38, is put Job in his place.  He reminds him that He is God and that Job is not, that He has created all things and holds all things in His hands and that there is no way that a simple human could compare to Him.
            Yet I happen to think that even as God is saying this to Job, it’s not in anger or wrath or disgust.  I think that while God has to correct Job and put him in his place, there is a sense of admiration and tenderness for Job.  Because Job was willing to pour himself out honestly before the Lord - whereas the friends simply spoke about God in haughty, lofty, holier-than-thou ways.
            And what does God say about the difference between bitterly-honest Job and his pious, lofty, God-defending friends?
            I think it’s interesting to note that God spends a lot of time talking to Job, correcting him, reminding him of who He really is.  But He barely even looks at the friends.  Here they thought they were so righteous and knew God so well and were protecting God’s character from Job’s outcries, yet God barely bothers to respond to them.
            And even then, the only thing He really has to say to them is in Job 42 when God turns to Eliphaz and says, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”   And He doesn’t just say it once; He says it twice.  And then God asks Job to pray for them so that He does not deal with them according to their folly.
            (So I ask ... who's really the dimwit in this story, according to God?)

            Instead of worrying about the “proper” way to respond, Job basically called God out, saying, “Let’s have it out, God.  You and me!  Here and now!"  He shows us that sometimes there is a time to vent to God, to "fight" with God (not against God, but with Him), to wrestle with Him over our fears and doubts and pains, to struggle with our expectations, misconceptions, and assumptions, to bring it all to God.
            Did you ever see Forrest Gump?  It’s been a long time since I have, but there’s this part where Lieutenant Dan rails at God from the boat, fists waving in the air, shouting all sorts of angry things at Him.  And I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I do remember that it was with an attitude of “I’m angry with You.  Let’s get it all out in the open now!  We’re getting in the ring, gloves off!  Bring it on, God!  It’s You and me!  Let’s do this!”
            And I used to think, How horrible and disrespecting toward God!  God must hate that!  Lieutenant Dan's gonna earn himself some serious punishment with that kind of displeasing, improper outburst.
            But as I’ve gotten older and learned more about God and learned to be more transparent with Him and to let Him into the sealed-off parts of my heart, I now realize, Lieutenant Dan is doing it right!  That’s what pleases God more than quietly shrinking away from Him, hiding the hurt parts of our heart in order to be “pleasing” to Him, nursing our wounds in private.  He’d rather have us rail at Him in all honesty than pull back in a false form of trust and humility.  He wants us to wrestle with Him, if wrestling is what will create a deeper relationship and stronger faith, to give it our all, to cling to the very end, to passionately throw ourselves at Him and not let go until He blesses us.
            I think wrestling with God is something we will all have to do at some point in our lives, in the trials and heartaches and unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams and shattered hopes and failures and doubts and fears and questions.  I know I definitely have.
            But I think He’d rather us grab on and cling to Him, even when we are angry or in pain, than have us turn away from Him and grab on to something else.  It might hurt.  It might be difficult.  It might take everything we've got to keep clinging.  But if we cling long enough, we will be blessed.  Either with the answer we want, or with the grace and peace He gives us to accept the one we don’t.
            And sometimes the greatest blessing that comes from wrestling with Him is just having been near Him, having been in His presence, letting Him walk with us through our hard time and yet learning to find our joy in Him and not in our circumstances.
            Job might have gotten lectured by God for several chapters ... but Job got to hear from God Himself.  God took the time to visit with Job, to clarify what's really important, to reveal Himself more fully to Job.
            And the friends ... well, the friends basically got ignored by God, except for when He gave them the chance to get Job's help in obtaining His forgiveness.
            So ... which one sounds more desirable and more encouraging to you?

            It’s not the pain and heartache that is sin.  It’s what you do with it.
            Like King Saul, do you turn away from God and grab onto the pain, letting it shape your life and your self-views? Like Job’s friends, do you cling to your misconceptions about God, faith, and life, and throw around “truth” as a way to judge how other people are doing in their walks with the Lord?
            Or like Job, do you turn to God and bring Him all the pain and ache that is in your heart, choosing to draw near to Him, even when you have doubts and fears and ugly feelings and unpleasant thoughts?  Do you let God draw near to you, into your heart fully, so that He can correct your misconceptions and show Himself to you for who He really is and heal the wounds you keep locked up inside?
            King Saul settled.  Job’s friends scolded and shamed.  But Job struggled.
            And struggling is not sinful.
            It’s so easy to turn away from God like Saul did, to lose yourself in bitterness when things don’t go your way.  And like Job’s friends, it’s easy to judge, scold, and criticize how someone else is doing on their spiritual journey.  To point the finger and say "You dimwit!"
            But it’s hard – so hard – to get real with God like Job did.  To take off the “happy” mask, put away the “good Christian” etiquette, ignore the criticism and judgments, and to get into the ring with God and lay it all out there honestly.  Vulnerably.
            But sometimes, it’s the only way to adjust, to maintain your faith in the midst of pain you wish you didn’t have, to work through your negative self-views and your doubts and fears about God.  In fact, it is healthy.  If you do not work through these things, they become stumbling blocks in your heart and faith, walls in your relationship with others, with yourself, and with God.
            Job did it right!
            And although my pastor criticized Job and called him "dimwitted" and basically said he got blasted by God as punishment, to put him in his place ... God showed up for Job, He stood up for Job, He called Job "My servant" and spoke personally to him for a long time and eventually blessed him abundantly for his faithfulness.
            Not too shabby for a "dimwit."


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