Ever go to a friend for advice only to end up more confused and discouraged than when you showed up? That’s pretty much what happened in the story of Job. The first few chapters of the book recount what can accurately be described as possibly the most devastating “worst case scenario” of all time. Unaware that he was the subject of a spiritual face-off between God and Satan (Job 1:8-12), this righteous man (1:1) lost all of his property, most of his servants, his house, and all ten of his children in a single day. (1:13-20) His health, also targeted by Satan, quickly deteriorated a short time later. (2:1-8) Crushed by her own understandable suffering, even Job’s wife turned her back on him, urging him to “curse God and die.” (2:9)
But the misery didn’t stop there. By the middle of the book, Satan altered his tactics and began targeting Job’s trust in God in a more subtle form. His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, arrived on the scene with the genuine intent to offer support and encouragement to their troubled companion. But it wasn’t long until the ‘friendly fire’ on Job’s faith commenced through a series of conversations that questioned Job’s faith, (8:1-6) insinuated his gross sinfulness (4:7) and implied that he was the root cause for his own suffering. (22:3-4).
Their advice seemed sound from their point of view, but they were looking through the clouded lens of their own cultural beliefs and limited intellect rather than seeking the clarity that comes from God. This lack of vision caused their flawed counsel to hurt their friend far more than it helped him.
In a similar way, Peter expressed genuine desire to protect Jesus from the suffering that he would soon endure at the hands of the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities. (Matt.16:21) Knowing the spiritual necessity of his death (1 John 2:2), Jesus rebuked Peter, saying “Get behind me, Satan.” (Matt 16:23) Christ’s response reminds people that difficulties are not always what they appear to be and even a sincere desire to help can be manipulated by the devil to lead us away from the plan of God. Before accepting the counsel of others, it is imperative to sift any advice through the truth of scripture and exercise discernment, knowing that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)