Next, Job’s three friends approach Job, mourning with him. In Job, Chapter 3, we have the start of four dialogues. Job and his three friends take turns in an unprofitable discussion. The difficulty in reading these passages is that all four of them were wrong and yet made many true statements; in fact, the Apostle Paul quotes a saying of one of the three friends as a New Testament truth. Most important, though, a truth in these dialogues gives revelation of the true condition of Job’s heart.
Sometimes we remain confused because all the dialogues around us are wrong yet contain an element of truth. Christians take sides on issues and both sides are many times in error but both contain an element of truth. The result is unprofitable.
Job opens his mouth in chapter 3, revealing his response to this terrible affliction. In this study our focus will be God’s focus—a focus on the bitter water. God already said at the onset that He thought Job was upright—now God magnifies that which is not upright. When you are in affliction, God focuses on your bitter water—on that which is not upright. Normally, our reaction, our focus is on what we did right; we conclude that we do not deserve such affliction; this was Job’s response.
JOB 3 – Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said,
“Let the day perish on which I was to be born…May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it…and let it not see the breaking dawn; because it did not shut the opening of my mother’s womb, or hide trouble from my eyes. Why did I not die at birth…Why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but there is none, And dig for it more than for hidden treasures,…Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, and my cries pour out like water. For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” (Concise)
Job’s attitude turned to despair, a loss of all hope. Job cursed his birthday; he wished he had been a miscarriage. Job’s despair grew; he wanted God to kill him. Always observe your response to any affliction lest you be blind concerning yourself. Self-pity never delivers you from affliction! When severe affliction comes, we want to lie down; we want to quit. We find there is no resource within us to overcome; we want to distance ourselves from our affliction. For some, the only way to distance themselves from their affliction is suicide, or at least the desire to die. Despair is a killer; it takes away all opportunities for deliverance.
I know intimately despair’s depths that many go through. I know it is hard to muster up the strength to go on; it is hard to see anything but doom for our future. We want to stay in bed. We want to avoid relationships. We hurt so much inside that we just want the quickest way to end the pain, leaving this physical world. Nevertheless, this is not God’s destiny for you; despair is the destiny the enemy wants for you. The weight of despair may feel as a truck of bricks upon our heart, but we have to empty the truck; we have to choose God’s course. I think those afflicted with the worst bouts of despair are the ones God calls to the greatest demonstrations of His strength in the earth. Before the greater works, however, we must get through the bout of despair; it must end forever. It starts with a choice to finish your allotted course.
JOB 6:11 – What is my strength, that I should hope?…and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? (KJV)
Take note: Job is not perfect in this saying! Job disagreed with God, thereby sinning with his lips. Job saw that the road ahead was darkness, not ending in deliverance. Yes, this is a natural reaction but God wants us to know Him Who is Hope; this is the way to God’s higher call. Spiritual reactions are pleasing to God, and He gives us the ability to hope because of Jesus. It is easy to preach this, a lot harder to walk it when you have been terribly afflicted and hurt. God reaches down in our despair and by His mercy, restores us to a place where hope swallows up despair.
ROMANS 5:5–6 – …hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Job continues to mischaracterize God in his dialogue. Job says God is against him. Job does not look within his own heart, proclaiming he has done nothing deserving of this affliction. “God has made me bitter,” says Job; “who can ever be right or do well in His sight—God is unpleasable.” These are sayings from Job; out of the abundance of the heart, Job speaks. Job’s words prove that in affliction, the man who once sinned not with his lips—now sins with his lips.
Job continues, “God will not even answer me,” “God blesses the house of the robber, those provoking Him are secure,” and “God is a merciless judge of every infraction.” If that were true, God would have judged us long ago.
PSALMS 103:10 – He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
Job complains to God and Job complains about God. All of these are but symptoms—not the root of the problem. We go through affliction, many times, responding in self-pity, anger, blaming others, or blaming God. These responses spring from issues we need to deal with. We see the meanness in others, not realizing the mental and physical abuse they may have experienced in their youth; the meanness may be a manifestation of a broken heart God wants to heal. Many in the world feel God was unfair to allow abuse to happen; their response to past abuse manifests in mischaracterizing God, resulting in a bitter Heart. If we learn these important lessons of truth, God can use us to minister to these, but first we must learn His dealings, submitting to them.
The dialogue of Job revealed a deep-rooted problem that God wanted to uncover, surface, and remove—self-righteousness! Can self-righteousness contain self-pity? As you will witness, it surely can.
Job was stubborn and refused the counsel of his wise friends, but there was a problem there as well, for the words of Job’s friends added affliction to his already miserable condition because their words contained mixture. The friends actually pointed out Job’s self-righteousness. They told Job that something was not right in his life, but his end would be restoration even greater than before. They preached encouragement, hope, and accurate statements about God’s character. Why did they add affliction to Job’s already dismal situation? They mixed bitter water and sweet water. Their bitter-water-words are from the natural man, the carnal man, causing Job to become more contentious. They even digressed into giving the false purpose of affliction by telling Job his affliction was due to withholding bread to the hungry—a false accusation. Also notice: We have twenty-eight chapters of Job dedicated to four unprofitable discourses.
An issue witnessed in church counseling is similar to the three-friend-counseling, actually worse. At least the three friends were just that—friends. In church counseling, the minister rarely is a friend. The best counselor for you is someone you know and respect as abiding in Christ, someone listening intently to God’s voice. Even so, certain counseling you should only seek in the Holy Spirit’s voice. “Should I get married…is this the right mate for me?” Ministers should never answer these questions. We are not to replace the Holy Spirit. He is the Counselor. We can impart truth, however, revealing principles leading to maturity. This does not translate into guidance that damages folks. Overstepping our bounds when counseling, leads to a three-friends-dialogue.
It is hard to see the error of the three friends until you first observe the righteousness spoken from the fourth friend—Elihu.
An excerpt from “Temple Builders: The High Calling”
John Robert Lucas