I’ve been reading Job recently, and I’ve become a big fan of this book!
I’m impressed with Job’s incredibly bold lament and complaint toward God. The poetry is incredible, but it truly fits in the category of wisdom literature. Such deep spiritual counsel straight from the mind of God.
One thing that stands out of course is the reminder of how NOT to minister to a friend who is stricken with tragedy and loss. It should be included on reading lists for counseling programs as an example of the WRONG approach to grief counseling.
The three friends who came to console Job in his devastation spoke as though they had been appointed to speak for God and set Job straight about how things really are. In the end, we realize that Job received God’s healing, affirmation, and blessing directly from God, and not through the ministry of these “miserable comforters” (Job 16:1).
What Job ultimately received was validation by God. As Job cursed the day he was born, and pled for God to give him a break, he needed someone, whether God himself, or the believers in his midst, to validate his deep suffering and confusion. Not to argue with him about it.
Validation is defined as “the act of confirming something as true or correct;” or, “the act of affirming a person, or their ideas, feelings, actions, etc., as acceptable and worthy.”
When someone feels angry and forsaken, we must let him or her express these feelings without judgment, criticism, or correction. Feelings are feelings. They just are. We don’t attempt to argue with them. We listen and validate. This is what restores and helps and promotes their receiving the goodness of God.
The best usage of this concept in the New Testament comes from Jesus Christ. Jesus, like Job, faced unjust, untrue, and hostile opposition to his message and his very identity. When challenged about his authority as the Son of God, he told the religious leaders,
“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true” (John 5:31-32).
He refers in part to John the Baptist, a primary source witness who validated Jesus at every turn, especially when he told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35). John’s whole purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus by affirming Jesus as “acceptable and worthy” of following.
Jesus also pointed to his own teachings and miracles as validation that the Father had sent him into the world. He declared that he only did the things that God does, thereby confirming that God’s power was present and real in him, and his teachings were always true and correct (Jn. 5:36).
Thirdly, Jesus plainly stated, “The Father who sent me has testified about me himself” (Jn. 5:37).
Where and when did the Father testify about him? Pick any book in the Old Testament, and you’ll find frequent validation of the coming Messiah. You’ll find it in Moses, and David, and Elijah, and Jeremiah, and Malachi, and dozens of other witnesses as the Spirit inspired them to write the Father’s true feelings and intentions toward his only begotten Son. They hadn’t met him, but they knew him prophetically, and validated his coming kingdom.
When the Pharisees insisted, “You are making those claims about yourself…such testimony is not valid,” Jesus was not intimidated. He replied,
“These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going…You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact.I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other” (Jn 8:13-18).
God and Jesus make a majority, always. God’s position trumps every other position, however gifted the orator stating an opposing position. He declares who we are, and what his intentions are toward us.
Back to Job, who affirms this!
“If someone wanted to take God to court, would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times? For God is so wise and so mighty. Who has ever challenged him successfully?…God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. If only there were a mediator who could bring us together…”(Job 9:3-4,32).*
Job recognized his friends’ theological arguments and accusations for what they were—cruel, self-serving, self-righteous. They not only invalidated Job’s feelings about his tragedy, they invalidated God’s sovereignty and his compassion for Job, a man he called “the finest man in all the earth…blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
It’s fascinating to me how honest Job is with the Lord, even to the point of exhaustion. I picture him falling in a heap and sighing, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:3-5).
God’s response? “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!…So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning” (Job 42: 10,12). God knows the end from the beginning.
It is foolish and wrong to harshly judge someone whom God has declared righteous. Including Job, and Jesus, and you and me. We are validated by God’s word about us, even if no one on earth is available to validate us.
So when we are called to the side of those who are rejoicing, we validate them by rejoicing with them. When they are grieving, we validate them by grieving with them.
We honor God by acting like him in those circumstances, asking him to bring his truth to bear. And we hold our tongues unless we are sure we have a word that will help and not harm.
*There is a mediator, Job, there is…you just hadn’t met him yet!