The story of Job speaks volumes to the many issues that surround abuse and its impact on those who have been hurt by it. In a very short amount of time Job loses everything that he owns and all of his children are killed in a powerful storm. He then loses his health and his body is diseased and broken. His friends and family members forsake him and the neighborhood children mock him. The people that Job used to love and help are gripped with fear because they don’t understand what has happened to him. But, Job has three friends who live far away and they make arrangements to meet and travel to visit their old friend so that they can comfort him. When they arrive, Job is sitting on an ash heap with his body covered in putrid sores that were oozing puss. He was so grotesque that they did not recognize him. They were so moved with grief that they sat down and wept, and for seven days they sat in silence. Finally, when Job breaks his silence, he pours his heart out and expresses his grief and pain, along with his desire to die. His pain is so great that he wishes he had never been born. The past joys and blessings were such a distant memory that he wishes he were never born. And then something very strange happens, his three friends who had come to comfort him, turn against him. Maybe they were concerned with what Job had said? They too didn’t understand why these things had happened to him. They begin to correct him and try to convince him that he is wrong about saying that he wishes he were dead. Job can’t believe what he is hearing, he was expecting that they would comfort and encourage him. So job pushes back at what they are saying, but instead of his three friends apologizing, they dig in their heels and redouble their efforts to correct him. They begin to take turns lecturing Job, and one by one they go on the attack. They are no longer acting like friends but opponents in a fight. Job becomes more bewildered and frustrated by their attempts to lecture him about all the things that he must have done wrong. They accuse him robbing people and taking advantage of the poor. They begin to lay a long list of accusations against him and say that all of the bad things that had happened to him were his own fault. They say that God is punishing him for being so bad and even tell him that he is only getting half of what he deserves. The problem is that none of what they were saying was true. All of the things that had happened to him were not his fault.
The parallels of Job’s story and the victims of abuse are many. The lives of millions of children are shattered every year by sexual assault and violence. By no fault of their own their lives are torn apart. They lose their innocence, joy and sense of security. Their family and friends turn against them. Some abandon them because they are afraid or don’t know what to say. Others begin to accuse them of wrong behavior. Surely they must have done something horrible for this to have happened to them. Victims of abuse are often rejected when they start to talk about their abuse. When they speak out of their pain and the darkness of their soul, they are attacked by those around them. Even people who come to comfort them often wind up hurting them more. What Job’s three friends did to him is exactly what many ‘well meaning’ Christians are doing to victims of abuse today. They start with good intentions but when they witness the graphic and raw condition of those who have been ravaged by the abuse, they lash out at what they don’t understand and the victims are harmed all over again.
Dale Ingraham….Co-founder of Speaking Truth in Love Ministries….President of MK Safety Net and Author of ‘Tear Down This Wall’.