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Righteous Suffering: When Counsel is Cruel


If you’ve ever felt that someone had it out for you, then you can empathize with where Job finds himself in chapters 11 – 14. Moving through the speech cycles, Job’s friends are ratcheting up their cruelty, pride and strident conviction in their system. In response, Job appeals to the mystery of God’s work and a future hope. What we see God’s Word moving us toward is: When life is cruel, we must maintain our hope in the gospel and its redemptive work.


  1. Zophar’s Cruel Counsel: 11:1-20

Zophar picks up the discourse and wastes no time going after Job. In short, his “counsel” (and we will have to use that term loosely here) is that Job deserves worse, he doesn’t know what God is doing and then gives a false offer of hope. It’s like a trifecta of terribleness! What’s shocking about his engagement, is the confidence he has about his perspective. Had he approached Job with humility, he may have had his eyes opened to what he didn’t know, and also been able to actually help and minister to Job. Instead, he does nothing more than offer cruel counsel. This should be a reminder to us to approach others with humility and a willingness to allow the Spirit to open our eyes to what we don’t know.


  1. Job Rebukes His Cruel Friends: 12:1 – 13:19

In response, Job pushes against his friends. Instead of embracing their simplistic, religious system, he speaks to the mystery of God and His work. He speaks of the mystery of suffering, the paradox of God’s power and yet what seems to be destructive, and the fact that God is allowing deceptive counsel. Job turns from his friends and chooses to make his appeal to God.


  1. Job Petitions God: 13:20 – 14:21

Job then turns his attention to God. In doing so, he is confronted with the reality of his sinfulness. This realization moves Job through a progression that highlights the same progression that is true for us. It’s not only the issue of sin, but the curse that comes from sin and the despair that accompanies the curse. All hope would be lost if it weren’t for the longing for resurrection that Job speaks of. This is a beautiful foreshadowing of the hope that we will find in Christ.


How Do We Respond to This?:

In responding to this exchange, we discussed 4 practical items for us in the text.

  1. Trust that the Spirit is at work in others: Taking a cue from Zophar’s failure, we want to realize and live in a way that we trust the Spirit is working in others, not only in us. This will require humility and a willingness to hear from others, but will be a great blessing and benefit to us.
  2. Let us endeavor to love God and not a system: It’s painful to observe Job’s friends as they interact with him. Part of what is painful is the absence of them expressing a deep affection and love for God. What they love the most is their system, which is really nothing more than an idol for them. We can become enamored with our theology and doctrine, our ministry and service or our own systems, and realize that we love that more than we love God Himself! God help us that we would be captivated and enamored with Christ!
  3. Let us live intentionally in the messiness of life: We have to be ok with people and situations that are not ok. Instead of running from the messiness, as if it didn’t exist; let us lean into it. There are a few ways that we can do this specifically. First, don’t always look to “fix it.” Sometimes sanctification requires time and space. Second, focus on being present with people, not having the right answer or response. Third, seek to find ways that the gospel is redeeming the messiness of life. Finally, let the messiness drive us to prayer.
  4. Let us find hope in the resurrection: As you encounter trial, despair or grief, the reminder of the resurrection offers you hope. Let it be a life raft that sustains you in your time of treading water. Today is not how the story of God will end. But today is marred and identified with brokenness, pain and despair. Let the resurrection offer you an unshakable hope that will one day remedy the brokenness of sin.



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