I Loathe My Life: Listening to Victims

Those who are honored to hear an abuse survivor’s story need to hear Job’s story.

They need to hear his words . . . and they need to hear his friends’ words. They are likely to identify with Job’s friends more than with Job. They are likely shocked by Job.

But then they may wonder why God takes his friends to task in the end of the story rather than Job.

Listen to Job’s heart:

“I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God, Do not condemn me;
let me know why you contend against me.
Does it seem good to you to oppress,
to despise the work of your hands
and favor the designs of the wicked?
Have you eyes of flesh?
Do you see as man sees?
Are your days as the days of man,
or your years as a man’s years,
that you seek out my iniquity
and search for my sin,
although you know that I am not guilty,
and there is none to deliver out of your hand?
Your hands fashioned and made me,
and now you have destroyed me altogether.
Remember that you have made me like clay;
and will you return me to the dust?
Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese?
You clothed me with skin and flesh,
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit.
Yet these things you hid in your heart;
I know that this was your purpose.
If I sin, you watch me
and do not acquit me of my iniquity.
If I am guilty, woe to me!
If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head,
for I am filled with disgrace
and look on my affliction.
And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion
and again work wonders against me.
You renew your witnesses against me
and increase your vexation toward me;
you bring fresh troops against me.

Job 10:1-17 (ESV)

You could read just a couple sentences and be disturbed by Job’s attitude towards the Lord. But he sounds like many abuse victims with whom I have spoken.

Victims are angry. They are frustrated. They don’t get how God could put them through what they have gone through.

It reminds me of Mia’s story. As Mia continued to hold fast to the Lord, the added pain of suffering at the hands of God’s servants (leaders in the church), only exacerbated the misery. Or Kani’s story of questioning what God was doing . . . or if he needed to be a better Christian.

Job did not reject God. He questioned the Lord and was angry at the Lord. But he did not reject Him.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Job 13:15 (ESV)

But I want you to see that Job’s friends responded to these and other complaints by Job much like most of us want to respond when sitting in a victim’s story. As we hear their hurt, complaints, suffering, and what we would deem bad theology, we want to fix them. We have a unquenchable urge to straighten them out. Get them on the road to healing ASAP.

I have heard this over and over. The theologically astute want so badly to clean up the attitudes and comments of victims. Listeners feel they must clear the air and defend the Lord. They must get the victim on the path to righteousness. . . to just get over it.

And, by no means, criticize the Lord!

But Learn from Job

Listen to the Lord. Hear the end of the story:

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

Job 42:7-9 (ESV)

You would think, like Eliphaz did, that the Lord would come down on Job. Job’s words had been biting. They had been directed at the Lord of the universe. The One who created all things and does only good and right.

But Job says, “Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?”

Any mature Christian would want to say, “Are you kidding me? How dare you talk of the Lord this way?”

His friends defended the Lord. They responded with many correct theological statements. How dare Job talk to God this way.

Zophar said in response to Job’s complaint:

“Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
and a man full of talk be judged right?
Should your babble silence men,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure,
and I am clean in God’s eyes.’

Job 11:2-4 (ESV)

Zophar is righteously indignant. Sounds great. Accurate. Scriptural.

But, the Lord instead tells him and his other friends, “My anger burns against you.” Their words were wrong . . . and Job’s were right!

Wow.

So, next time you sit down and listen to a survivor, consider keeping your mouth shut.

Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!

Job 13:5 (ESV)

Consider Job. Consider Eliphaz.

Consider that the Lord of the universe is on the victim’s side. And He is hearing His servant Job. You would do well to do the same.

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