When we find ourselves in the midst of difficulty and distress, feeling sorry for ourselves can quickly dominate our mindset so much that we decide we are being treated unfairly. It often proves to be our natural first reaction. When we do not get that promotion or raise, we assume that whoever did undermined us in some way. We justify the events in a way that assumes we were deserving and others were not. When our health or the health of a family member takes an unexpected turn, we offer the tried and true philosophical answer of “Life’s not fair” to explain the situation—and that is on a good day. When we see wicked people prospering—not despite but because of their wickedness—we call for justice and talk about how the system is broken. But in all of this, we can forget the nature of our existence and the nature of our God.
As Elihu rebuked Job’s complaining, he described the issue by a straightforward comparison, “Do you think this is right? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’?” (Job 35:2). These questions reach deep into the heart of all men and expose an assumption that we tend to keep at our core. Satan has perceived this practically universal weakness among men. Even advertisers know it. They sell us items we do not really need with the simple justification: “You deserve it.” Like Job, when life does not go our way, we typically complain based upon the assumption that we deserve better. But this is not true at all. We enjoy life itself as a gift. Indeed, every moment of life after we have sin is a special gift that we do not deserve. We do not deserve life, and because of our sin we deserve death. Therefore, while we might conjure up all kinds of reasons why we have value to God as His servants, two more questions Elihu asked bring us back to reality: “If you are righteous, what do you give Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?” (Job 35:7). We depend on God for everything, and we have nothing to offer Him that improves His existence whatsoever. Therefore, we have no room to complain and every reason to bow humbly and give thanks.
Therefore, regardless of the problems that may confront us from time to time, we will never have any righteous reason to complain to God about what He has done. Someone on this earth may be guilty of heinous behavior, but we dare not act as if God is then to blame as well (Jas. 1:13). Instead, through all our trials, we can have confidence that the LORD will do what is right every time. He wants what is best for us, and He will take care of injustice in the end. Elihu recognized this as well, saying, “Although you say you do not see Him, Yet justice is before Him, and you must wait for Him” (Job 35:14). Rather than complaining about what we face in this life, we need to keep righteousness in perspective—an eternal perspective. Doing so will change our frame of mind so much that rather than offering complaints we will be offering praise.