I just finished listening to the book of Job in the New Living Translation. Every few years, I like to read through the Bible in chronological order to retain the big picture view of its storyline and overall message, which is our redemption through Jesus. This year, I’m listening to it instead of reading it, using The One Year Chronological Bible NLT Audible Audiobook. I’ve also gotten the Kindle version for days when reading is more convenient.

Now, back to Job.

Who is to Blame?

We all know how Job endured all kinds of loss and suffering at Satan’s hands because he wanted to prove that the only reason Job loved God was because God was good to him. But no matter what horror Satan threw at him, Job kept his faith in God.

Job and his friends knew nothing of what was going on in the spirit realm. They could only see what was happening to Job. In their distress, they tried to figure out why.

I’ve noticed this is our human tendency. We want to know why bad things happen so we can prevent it from happening again, or to us. We want someone to blame. If we can blame someone, we can make it a preventable tragedy. We want to be in control of what happens to us.

The Internet has allowed this trait to come out in full force.

A Graceless Response to a Tragic Ending

I first noticed it in the late 1990s when a young family was caught in a snowstorm on the top of a western mountain pass with very few supplies to survive. The dad decided he would go for help. When his family was rescued and their story broke, the Internet followed it in real time as rescuers searched for the dad. Sadly, a few days later, his frozen body was found.

It was a tragedy. We should have all collectively mourned this family’s loss and applauded the dad’s courage and dedication to try to get help for his family.

Instead, I was shocked to see the Internet explode with Monday morning quarterbacks, criticizing the family’s decision to cross the mountain, their lack of preparedness for any disaster, the dad’s choice to leave the vehicle and go for help instead of staying put, and on and on. To many, the family was to blame.

I realized then that we all like to think we’re perfect. That we are in control. That we can, by our own brilliant decision-making and preparedness prevent bad things from happening to us or to our loved ones. Calling this situation what it was — a tragedy — would also be admitting that it could happen to us. By criticizing their choices, we could retain the false illusion that we could prevent tragedy from happening to us.

Job’s Monday Morning Quarterbacks

Job’s friends were no different. As I listened to the accusations they threw at Job, I thought, with friends like those, who needs enemies?

Job must have felt the same way because when they finally stopped talking, he said:

What miserable comforters you are!
Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?
What makes you keep on talking?
I could say the same things if you were in my place.
I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.
But if it were me, I would encourage you.
I would try to take away your grief.
Instead, I suffer if I defend myself,
and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak.

Job 16:1-6 NLT

Have you ever felt that way with some people? I sure have. “Miserable comforters,” Job called them, which was certainly fitting. Their “comfort” adds insult to injury, and we’d be better off without such so-called friends.

What can we learn from Job’s “friends”?

One, is to not be a miserable comforter.

When someone is suffering, whether emotionally or physically, we need to realize that no one is immune to tragedy. We’d like to think we are, but we aren’t. Yes, there are precautions we can take, but waking up in the morning is a risk. So is going to bed, for that matter.

In most tragic cases, we have the benefit of hindsight, just as we do with Job. Thanks to the book of Job in the Bible, we know why Job suffered and it was because he was a righteous man, not because he had done wrong as his miserable comforters assumed. The bottom line is, we don’t know why bad things happen. God’s ways are higher than our ways.

So when someone we know is suffering for whatever reason, let’s humbly offer grace and compassion instead of criticism and condemnation. We never know when we may be in their shoes, and even if we never are, God still calls us to extend love, grace, and kindness.

Two, if we are the ones suffering and experiencing our own set of miserable comforters, let’s remember Job.

In the end, God vindicated him and reprimanded his so-called friends, as you can read in Job 42. He “blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning” (Job 42:12). After another 140 years, Job died, “an old man who had lived a long, full life” (Job 42:16).

We can’t always see the end from the beginning, but God can. If we know we are living in obedience to God or have repented when we realized we weren’t, we can confidently trust God to vindicate us despite what humans are saying about us or to us.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:5-6 NLT