As men, we’re called to speak into chaos. But our words must be both wise and well placed in order to offer any aspect of redemption. Consider Job’s friends. When tragedy struck, they were simply incredible. For seven days they were present with Job’comforting and grieving with him.
But when they began offering counsel, the situation soured. I think the foolishness of Job’s friends were expressed in four faces, and I think these four faces of folly still tempt us today. See if you can resonate with them.
Face Number One:Personal suffering always has a clear reason. Job’s friends were convinced that if somebody’s life is messed up, then there’s a clearly identifiable cause close at hand. After all, trouble doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Face Number Two:Good guys always prosper. Job’s friends were sure that, if you walked with God, you’d receive your just rewards in this life.
Face Number Three:Bad guys always roast. Job’s friends believed evil always meets judgment in this life.
Face Number Four:If you’re suffering, it’s because you’ve sinned. Job’s friends had ideas about suffering that caused them to needlessly kick Job when he was down.
Men, do you have a friend who’s suffering? If so, take care that your words bring comfort to the situation. Don’t let the example of Job’s friends scare you into silence. Just keep in mind that your best guess as to the reason for your friend’s suffering may well be wide of the mark.
Sometimes taking responsibility for our lives means completing unfinished business. Some of us may have left a trail of broken laws and relationships’things that need addressing before moving on. Others may be burdened by debts that inhibit spiritual pursuits. Part of moving forward spiritually is to take full responsibility for wrongs done in the past.
New life in Christ doesn’t excuse past obligations or erase ongoing consequences of past sins. When the apostle Paul was in prison he led a runaway slave to Christ. But then Paul sent him back to his master’even though the slave faced a possible death penalty for his offense! Paul sent a letter back with the fugitive saying that if he had caused any harm or stolen anything that Paul would pay for it. Paul recognized that even though the slave was now a Christian and forgiven of his sins, he needed to address the wrongs he’d committed in the past.
Likewise, before you can move ahead, you must face the unfinished business of the past. This may include facing up to some cowardly behavior, crooked schemes, or quick-fix solutions to difficult problems that just didn’t work. While you can be certain that God will meet you where you are, He calls you to take responsibility for the sins that brought you to whatever circumstances you’re presently in. Once you accept ownership of your past, God will help you move ahead. But He’ll do it His way, not yours.
Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.
Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’
The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.