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Affliction lays us open to Reproach
That is one of the greatest burdens of affliction. That it will unjustly lay one open to reproach. The old poet could say, “That poverty had nothing more grievous in it than this, that it leaves men under disgrace, and exposes them to scorn.”
Secondly: We are apt to plead the evil which any man suffers as an argument of his sin.
The reproach or affliction which Job suffered was all the argument and proof which his friends could produce against him. They brought no witness to accuse him, but what they found upon him, his poverty and diseases. Job’s uprightenss had never been questioned by them, if he had not lost his riches.
Job in 19:6
Will you plead my reproach, or my affliction against me? If you will, I desire you to consider whence and from what hand my affliction comes. Know that God hath overthrown me.
Job’s rash speeches were always as a result of his friends reproaches and laying blame on him. I have suffered similar in not too dissimilar way; things have been called sin that was suffering. Exactly as in the case of Job.
Job began to believe that God did not care for him, because the very people who should have supported him and upheld him, the friends he loved dearly cast reproaches upon him instead of comforting him. Cold comforters they proved to be. It was working against the way God ordians the church should uphold one another.
What does the Word of God say the sum and substance of the Law and the prophets is? To love God with all our heart and soul and to love one’s neighbour as ourself. if sat in Job’s place, would that be what anyone would want for themself? Job was taken to doing the thing that his friends reproaches led to, turning their reproaches back upon those who reproached him, it was the only way he could defend himself.
Job 16:4 I also could speak as you do: if your soul were in my soul’s place, I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you.
Job 16:5-7 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips would relieve your grief. Though I speak, my grief is not relieved: and though I forbear, how am I eased? But now he has made me weary: you have made desolate all my company.
It seems from extraordinary suffering, friends often reach a wrong and unbiblical conclusion by misinterpreting the suffering. This is like rubbing salt into an already gaping wound; turning the heat up in the already overheated furnace. Job was reproached that as a just man could not suffer all he was if God loved him. We all have blind spots, each and everyone of us. It’s a good reminder that our friends sufferings are not just a trial of their faith, but also of our own in how we minister to them or not. If we are reproaching our suffering friends, let us see if the trial of our faith has been passed by how we have helped our distressed friend? Have we made their sufferings worse in the kinds of ways that Job’s friends did do. If so, like Job, Job may have been tried tested and proved while his friends floundered and failed.
Job 19:13-15 He has put my brethren far from me, and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my close friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in my house, and my maidservants, count me as a stranger: I am an alien in their sight.
Job’s friends were righteous men. They intended him good but got it so wrong through their own lack of sight in the matter of his suffering and drawing wrong conclusions from it.
We never ought to forget the case of Job. Never was any man covered with a greater heap of miseries, never was any man more seemingly left by God and harassed by the devil than he was; never did any man make more dleful complaints than what we hear from this poor man in his heavy trial. Job 10:16-17: “Thou huntest me as a fierce lion; and again Thou showest TThyself marvelous upon me. Thou renewest Thy witness against me, and increasest Thine indigination upon me.” Job 19:6, 10-11: “Know now that God hath overthrown me, and compassed me with His net; He hath destroye d me on every side, and I am gone; and mine hop hath he removed like a tree. He hath also kindled His wrath against me, and He counteth me unto him as one of His enemies.”
As James Durham wrote in his lectures on Job
I am one mocked of his neighbour. “I am a man that is near the grave, and yet I am so far from being comforted, that they take their pastime of me. And it is not enemies that do this, but neighbours, and that not of the more common sort but professors of the same religion with me. It is not by a man that [lacks] religion, but by him that calls upon God, and he answers; by a man that prays to God, and gets a hearing in reference to his outward condition.” (as v, 5, clears). “and has an easy life of it, in comparison of me.” And in this comparison he flatly contradicts their ordinary assertion, that it was always well with just men. “It is not so,” would he say, The just and upright man is laughed to scorn. That is, the most eminent upright men are often trod upon and ridiculed. And he gives the reason of this (vs. 5). He that is ready to slip with is feet, is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease. The men that are likely to perish by reason of affliction are ordinarily despised by them who are in a prosperous condition. They think no more of them than they do of a puff of a crusy [candlestick] that is dying out, and has an evil smell; and in [these] two verses he contradicts that which Zophar said (11:15-16), that godly men are always in prosperity.
Observe: it is too ordinary a fault to them that are in ease, to be harsh in censuring others that are in trouble. It is easy to cry down men and their cause, were it never so good, when they are in adversity.
James Durham– Lectures on Job Ch 12
From personal experince and studying Job’s case it can only be my conclusion that people who do unfairly censure others in such affliction have draw conclusions from the suffering that should not be made. That God’s people cannot have certain sufferings and it not call into question their standing with God.
Timothy Rogers the puritan was no stranger to melancholia. He was a much beloved Preacher in London in puritan England and he was hit by melancholia of a severe kind. It became so severe he had to step down from the pulpit. All of Christain London prayed for his deliverance from it, and after two years, light started to come back into his world. After eight years he was able to take to the pulpit again. After his deliverance he wrote his most excellent work, Trouble of mind and the disease of melancholy. After two hundred years this work has recently been reprinted for the first time. He understood the torture of such melanchoia first hand. He knew the agonies of it being misunderstood just like Job’s suffering was. With a heart full of gratitude to God for delivering him from it, he set down to write the said treatise for others in a like condition and their friends and relations. During the last years of his life, however, he lived in obscruity because the darkness returned to him somewhat. He was always much loved and highly esteemed by the other puritans of London. He was never reproached for such darkness and despar but much ministered to. The puritans understood that his darkness and despair was as much from the hand of God as any other affliction. II made them full of gratitude towards God in sparing them what their friend suffered, as being part of the body they were no less liable to it than he.
God can and does use broken vessels particuarly. Not just the courageous and strong and bold. In weakness God is magnified, and what could have kept David Brainerd persevering to the end in such utter affliction and illness aside from the grace of God?
Whatever the affliction is that befalls anyone, physical illness or trouble of mind, to uphold the substance of the Golden rule, we should think there but for the grace of God go I. On that basis ask ourself what we would want done unto us, if it was us in their stead. Only by doing such and carrying it through can we ever really perform our duty to God and man in the sum and substance of the law of God and the Christian faith. Loving our neighbour as ourself.
Job is a pattern of what we should not do to those in extreme or extraordinary suffering; yet, sadly, the lesson has still not been learned by all of the church no more than it had in Job’s day.
For brevity’s sake I’ll leave this here and pick it up on the next post.