John Maxwell once said, "Before you put others in their place, put yourself in their place." It is so easy to seek to put people in their place who are struggling and suffering. From our vantage point, we believe we know why they are struggling and really believe they need to hear what we have to say. We believe if they would listen to what we have to say, then they would be in a different place, a better place. However, most of the time, we really do not know how they are feeling, all that is going on in their lives, what they are battling, or even all that is happening in the unseen spiritual warfare taking place behind the scenes of their lives. This was the situation with Job and his friends.
His friends, as concerned for him as they were, sought to put Job in his place. However, they never put themselves in his place. Originally, they came to sit with him...to mourn with him. But soon, their sitting turned into speaking. One by one each of his friends began putting Job in his place. Then they took turns putting Job in his place. Each one of them thought they had the right to do this and were saying what they thought were the right things to put Job in his rightful place.They positioned themselves as deep theological thinkers who understood the mind and ways of God. As a result, they believed they could pour out their theological answers to Job in the middle of his agony.
For the most part, they blamed Job for the suffering he was enduring. They told Job he was being punished for some sin his life. Over and over again they attacked Job with their words hoping he would listen. They told Job that if he would repent, then God would restore him to health and wholeness. It never occurred to them their assessment for the reason of Job's problems and pain could be wrong. So they continued.
Jobs friends, who I really believed were concerned for Job and meant well, did not see the unseen warfare going on behind the scenes of Job's life. Satan was actively seeking his destruction by bringing these terrible things into his life...and with these terrible things came terrible pain. He had experienced loss of family, friends, and financial resources. His health had diminished greatly. He was hurting emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. And his friends, seeking to be helpful, were making things worse because they did not understand Satan's active role in Job's destruction. The more advice they gave, the more agony he felt.
Job didn't understand it either. Initially, he wanted to blame God. However, he didn't see the Satanic activity going on behind the scenes of his life. In reality, Satan was attempting to destroy his faith by destroying his life. Job had conversations with and questions for God. In the end, Job came to realize and accept that even if he did not understand all that was happening, that God is good, sovereign loving, and just. He came to a point of trusting God's character even though he did not understand all that was happening. He prayed for his friends. Eventually, God blessed him more in the end of his life than he did the beginning.
So what are some lessons we can learn from the life of Job?
Lesson #1: Resist Putting People In Their Place
We will be tempted to put people in their place when they are going through hard times. We will want to provide the theological and intellectual answers to their pain and suffering. But remember, like Job's friends, we do not know all that is going on in their lives or behind the scenes of their lives. Our words can make it worse. Therefore, resist putting them in their place. Rather, let's put ourselves in their place and seek to feel what they feel. How are they hurting? What are they going through? How can we pray for them? What can we do practically for them?
Lesson #2: Realize People Will Try To Put You In Your Place
Don't be surprised when people try to put you in your place. Normally, people who try to put us in our place may mean well as they seek to provide theological or intellectual answers to us in our agony. However, they just do not understand. Pray for them as Job did his friends.
Lesson #3: Remember God Is Good, Loving, Sovereign, And Just
So often, in our pain, we want to blame God. Job did initially. However, like Job, we may not see the Satanic activity going on behind the scenes of our lives as Satan seeks to destroy our faith by destroying our lives. Rather than blame God, we must choose to trust him even though we do not understand why this struggle and suffering is happening in our lives. We must choose to believe that God is good, loving, sovereign, and just. He is for us. Satan wants us to believe his lies that God is not good and is against us. In reality, God is good and for us. Satan is the one who is not good and is against us!