Job 5:6-7 (NLT)
“But evil does not spring from the soil, and trouble does not sprout from the earth. People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.”
When we experience hardship, we instinctively look for a cause. If we can determine the cause-and-effect relationship responsible for our trouble, then we not only validate our understanding of how the world works but also imagine that such understanding can help us avoid the same trouble in the future.
In the above quote, Job’s friend Eliphaz argues that humans are responsible for their own troubles. Job’s overall story, however, teaches what Eliphaz did not seem to know, that as humans we suffer not only because of our own sin but also because we are subject to forces we cannot control or sidestep.
Because of the fall, all creation suffers decline and destruction, yet creation itself is morally neutral. It is not evil when a cheetah takes down a gazelle, or a stately oak succumbs to root rot. These are natural calamities. Humans alone, because we are made in God’s image, possess a will and moral choice. Every day, even moment by moment, we choose for good or for evil, for right or for wrong, for generosity or for selfishness. Our suffering, more often than not, is a complex web of natural calamity and the interplay of our choices and the choices of others.
Eliphaz was right when he claimed that people are born for trouble. Although we want to pin the blame for our suffering on someone, perhaps ourselves, or on some circumstance we can name, such blaming is usually simplistic and fruitless. In his final discourse, Jesus tells his disciples to expect hardship as a natural part of life but not to let the hardship conquer them. Jesus promises his peace to those who live in faith, even in the midst of trouble (John 16:33).
If we can accept that trouble is an inescapable—and often inexplicable—part of life, then we can rest from blaming and resenting and retaliating. Instead, we can focus on finding God in the midst of our suffering and ask, what does it mean to have God with me in this trouble? How will God use this trouble to make me stronger?
FATHER, I admit to having a secret belief that, if everyone acted the way they should, there would be no unhappiness in the world. Too often I find myself saying, “If it weren’t for this or for that, I would be content.” Help me to accept trouble as part of my journey with you toward spiritual maturity. Teach me to trust you so that I can let go of my need to blame.
Psalm 119:71; John 16:33
The next time things go wrong, instead of blaming others or yourself, immediately look to God for grace and perspective.