Job 4:5 (ESV)
 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
it touches you, and you are dismayed.
In Job 2 Job’s friends came and sat with him for a week without saying a word. They grieved his pain with him. In chapter 3 Job finally speaks, decrying the day of his birth. He is expressing his pain. One of his friends, Eliphaz, responds to Job’s words in chapters 4-5. Eliphaz speaks out of an experience he had with a spirit. There is really nothing he says that is completely wrong. Before God there is really no one righteous. We are born for trouble. If you would seek God, he would bring healing into your life. The only thing I can see wrong with Eliphaz words is the assumption and implication that Job has not been seeking God adequately.
It is easy for our theology to lead us to wrong conclusions based on assumptions about someone’s heart, motives, or thoughts. Our lack of discernment causes us to judge when we should care, and care when we should judge. Eliphaz theology is experience based. A spirit came to him in the night and spoke to him. Was the spirit a demon, an angel, or God himself. We don’t know. The spirit spoke truth. It raised the question, “Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker” (Job 4:17 ESV)? It’s a valid question. The implied answer is that we cannot be pure before our maker. Of course it’s not quite accurate, for our maker can declare us pure. Twice in the first two chapters God called Job “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8; 2:3).
Eliphaz assumption is that if Job is suffering then he must not have been seeking God adequately. The truth is, bad things happen to people whom God has declared righteous. Eliphaz’s theology is accurate as far as it goes. There is no one good or righteous in themselves. We live in a world where every baby born is bent toward sin. Our world is broken and so are we. Yet those who believe him are declared righteous, not because we are good, but because he is good; not because we are better than anyone else, but because his perfect son took our sin upon himself on the cross in order to give us his righteousness. The cross impacts in two directions. It covers the sins of those who went before Jesus and the sins of those who come after. Our righteousness if found in Christ.
Why do bad things happen to “good” people? Eliphaz is right; there are no good people. None of us, in ourselves, deserves God’s blessings. That is what makes grace so great. Yet Eliphaz is wrong; pain does not imply sin. Difficulties in life do not necessarily indicate rebellion. Crying out to God in our pain does not equal sin. We need to be careful not to assume that if bad things are happening then there must be unconfessed sin in someone’s life. Maybe God has a higher purpose that we don’t comprehend. Job’s pain wasn’t really about Job. Ultimately it accomplished two things. First, it proved to Satan that God’s assessment of Job was correct. Second, it demonstrated that God is greater than we imagine. The book ends with Job encountering God on a level he had never experienced before.
Eliphaz assumed that Job’s pain was discipline in the sense of punishment. Actually it was discipline in the sense of training. That is the idea in Hebrews 12. We often read it as though it is talking about punishment. God punishes us because he loves us. But that’s not really the sense of the word discipline in Hebrews. Rather, it carries the idea of training like the discipline of training in sports.
Hebrews 12:5-7 (ESV)
 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline (training) of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
 For the Lord disciplines (trains) the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
 It is for discipline (training) that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline (train)?
In Job God is training Job. He is not punishing him. Be careful to distinguish between the two. Too much damage has been done in the name of Christ, truth, and holiness because we have failed to discern the difference between God’s training and God’s punishment. That, I believe, is where Eliphaz went wrong. Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s not add wounds to the pain of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, may we be like the good Samaritan in Luke 10:34. He bound up the wounds of the injured man, pouring on oil for soothing, and wine for healing. May we be healers, not ones who inflict further wounds in the lives of those who are hurting.