Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts …? Job 21:29
Often we can be like Job’s friends and have selected memories or selected deafness. We’re comfortable with our theology and don’t appreciate people pointing out that what we believe is illogical or inconsistent with what we see in the world.
Job pointed out to his friends that it was deceitful to say that the wicked are punished and the righteous are blessed in this life because clearly, the evidence didn’t back up their claim. Job told his friends it was nonsense to believe this and their comfort was no comfort at all because it was based on lies (verse 34).
Job expected his friends to use their minds, their brains, their common sense—to think, to enquire, to investigate, to consider the facts and not to respond out of traditional thought patterns that didn’t make sense. Having faith doesn’t mean mindless adopting a set of principles. Faith is reasonable. It requires openness and thoughtfulness, not blind acceptance.
Likewise, Jesus encouraged his followers to carefully consider their faith decisions, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost …?” “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider …?” (Luke 14:28, 31).
When we’re seeking to comfort those who suffer it’s best to avoid simplistic answers. Suffering is a great mystery and we don’t understand why some suffer so severely and others don’t, even those who appear to us to be sinful may avoid tragedies.
Job’s friends were more comforting when they said nothing (2:11-13) than when they gave superficial, unsubstantiated explanations.