THERE IS AN OLDER BROTHER SOLUTION TO SUFFERING:
DISPLAYED IN JOB’S “MISERABLE” COMFORTERS
THERE IS A YOUNGER BROTHER SOLUTION TO SUFFERING:
DISPLAYED IN JOB’S WIFE
THERE IS A GOSPEL SOLUTION:
DISPLAYED IN JOB
The older brother way is to either hate God (for not giving us what we think we have earned) or to hate ourselves (for not living up to the moral standard that would have ensured that God would not punish us.) Job’s “miserable comforters” were sure Job had sinned, or else he would not have been suffering.
The younger brother way is to reject God, to go our own way, to, as Job’s wife advised, “Curse God and die.”
The gospel approach may mean struggling, yet inevitably surrendering, for we know God is our only hope and we know God is good. (We see this so clearly in our own Chris, whose video testimony I will show you this week, in case you haven’t seen it.) We know we deserve punishment, yet we also know that punishment was paid in full at the cross — so we are not being punished. IT IS FINISHED, He cried. (So let it be!) We know also that suffering is inevitable in this life, but for the Christian, it is only temporary. Job, the disciples, and Jesus Himself all suffered greatly in this life — but it was temporary. So we will never curse God, but look forward to the day when all tears are wiped away, death and sin are vanquished, and sorrow is turned to unimaginable joy.
In Gerald Segher’s painting above, see all three of these approaches. His style of emphasizing truth with light reveals Job not only as the gospel approach but points to the greater Job, the One who took our punishment so that we can know that we are not being punished, and the One who is our only lifeline, so we must never turn away from Him.
Many believers revert to either side of the gospel because they have a poor theology of suffering. Matt Chandler is very helpful in this two minute clip in correcting poor theology:
Sunday/Monday (For those of you who are just sharing the gold, we love to hear all your answers during the icebreakers)
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Reflect on Segher’s painting — tell us what you see.
3. How do you tend to respond to suffering?
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study
THE YOUNGER BROTHER APPROACH TO SUFFERING
4. Do you agree with Keller that Job’s wife (see Job 2:9) represents the younger brother approach? Why or why not?
5. When suffering comes into your life, have you felt tempted to give up on God? Why or why not?
THE OLDER BROTHER APPROACH TO SUFFERING
I think for most believers who suffer, we are more likely to veer toward the error of the older brother than the younger. When my husband died of cancer in his prime. I often had thoughts like: I deserve this. I am so selfish. I forget about the poor. I could have been such a better wife to Steve. Why didn’t I lay down my speaking right away and stay home with him? I deserve this. I was overcome, not just with the grief of losing the love of my life, but with the sense I and our children were suffering because of my failures. Yet, as Chris shares in her testimony, I could not back away from God. I knew He was my only lifeline. I cried, “Help,” and He came running. Truly, I believe He led me to Keller’s sermons. I began with the psalms of lament, and then proceeded through Job. I was arrested when Keller said: When a believer suffers, it is NEVER because God is punishing Him. Jesus took that at the cross. I knew it was true and my soul found rest.
In Luther’s forward to the Galatians, he wrote: For human beings by nature, when they get near either danger or death itself, will of necessity examine their own worthiness. We defend ourselves before all threats by recounting our good deeds and moral efforts. But then the remembrance of sins and flaws inevitably comes to mind, and this tears us apart…
The older brother approach is sinister — and full of lies. When we use it on ourselves, it tears us apart. When we assume that sin is behind sorrow in others, we twist a knife in their wound. The first “friend” to speak to Job is Eliphaz, who has been listening to Job’s honest lament to God. It was Mike Mason in The Gospel According to Job, who alerted me to how the dream that Eliphaz describes to support his accusations is from Satan.
4. Read Job 3:25-26 and describe the closing of Job’s lament.
Read Job 4 in The Message (watch for the lies and the spirit of the evil one!)
Then Eliphaz from Teman spoke up:
“Would you mind if I said something to you?
Under the circumstances it’s hard to keep quiet.
You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words
that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit.
Your words have put stumbling people on their feet,
put fresh hope in people about to collapse.
But now you’re the one in trouble—you’re hurting!
You’ve been hit hard and you’re reeling from the blow.
But shouldn’t your devout life give you confidence now?
Shouldn’t your exemplary life give you hope?
7-11 “Think! Has a truly innocent person ever ended up on the scrap heap?
Do genuinely upright people ever lose out in the end?
It’s my observation that those who plow evil
and sow trouble reap evil and trouble.
One breath from God and they fall apart,
one blast of his anger and there’s nothing left of them.
The mighty lion, king of the beasts, roars mightily,
but when he’s toothless he’s useless—
No teeth, no prey—and the cubs
wander off to fend for themselves.
12-16 “A word came to me in secret—
a mere whisper of a word, but I heard it clearly.
It came in a scary dream one night,
after I had fallen into a deep, deep sleep.
Dread stared me in the face, and Terror.
I was scared to death—I shook from head to foot.
A spirit glided right in front of me—
the hair on my head stood on end.
I couldn’t tell what it was that appeared there—
a blur . . . and then I heard a muffled voice:
17-21 “‘How can mere mortals be more righteous than God?
How can humans be purer than their Creator?
Why, God doesn’t even trust his own servants,
doesn’t even cheer his angels,
So how much less these bodies composed of mud,
fragile as moths?
These bodies of ours are here today and gone tomorrow,
and no one even notices—gone without a trace.
When the tent stakes are ripped up, the tent collapses—
we die and are never the wiser for having lived.’”
5. Describe the tone in which Eliphaz begins in 1-6. What does Eliphaz tell Job to trust in in verse 6? What is wrong with this?
6. How would you answer the question Eliphaz asks in verse 7?
7. Describe the dream in verses 12 through 17. Find evidences that it was not from God, but from the evil one.
My husband had a dream from the evil one when he was battling cancer. He was being carried downward on a stretcher to hell — but he cried, “No — I belong to Jesus and I am forgiven. In the name of the blood of Jesus, turn around.” They turned around and carried him up. (Usually dreams don’t end like that — but I believe God intervened, reassuring Steve that He was greater than the enemy.)
8. What question does this “spirit” ask in verse 17?
9. When suffering has come into your life, have you hated yourself or God? Why or why not?
THE GOSPEL APPROACH TO SUFFERING
Job is lamenting in chapter 13, and by verse 14, he has a question for the Lord. “If a man dies, will he live again?” The Spirit of God answers him, with the gospel!
10. According to Job 14:15, what will God one day do for each of His children and why?
11. According to Job 14:16-17, what will God do with our sin?
Without going more into Job, the Gospel appears in the three “visitations” from God to Job. First, above, assuring him his sins are forgiven. He is not being “punished” for his sin. Then, when he has a vision of God as His redeemer. And finally, in the close, when God points to creation as evidence that He is a God who is in control and when He tells Job’s friends to repent to Job. The Gospel answer from Job that I would summarize for suffering is:
- You are not being punished, Your sins are covered. They have been paid in full.
- Your Lord is your Redeemer — and one day He will stand on the earth, making all things right.
- Your God has not lost control — He will do all things well in His time.
- You may not understand now, but accept the mystery of suffering, for I have died for you, love you, am in control, and will make all things right.
12. Describe God’s words to Job’s friends in Job 42:7-9. What does this tell you?
Our own Chris defeats both the younger brother and the older brother approach in her testimony. You may have seen this before, but I think it is worth watching again to see how she does it. Here it is:
13. How does the gospel help Chris face her suffering? How did she reject both the younger and older brother approach? How did the book of Job help her?
Listen to this sermon and share your notes: Link
14. What is your take-a-way and why?