I recently read Goodbye to Eliphaz (ok, I finished it about 6 weeks ago and am just now getting to write this book review. Sorry Rob!)
Rob Coyle has written a book that I believe every Christian needs to read. Seriously, it’s that important of a book, and here’s why. Have you ever heard, or said, anything like this?
- “I guess God sent that earthquake to teach those people a lesson.”
- “We wouldn’t have so many school shootings if prayer was allowed in them.”
- “You know how sinful that city is. No wonder God let a hurricane land there.”
- “She must have died because God needed another angel.”
- “With as much pain and sickness as that guy is facing, it makes you wonder what sin he’s hiding that’s causing all of this.”
If you’re anything like me, you have heard someone give answers like these to very difficult problems. That means you’ve met Eliphaz. (And if you’ve said similar things, sadly, you are Eliphaz.) But just who is Eliphaz?
In Goodbye to Eliphaz, Rob Coyle addresses our overly simplistic and often harsh attempts to explain life, Scripture, and God. Coyle uses the example of Eliphaz, a character from the book of Job, as an archetype. The book then elaborates on the various reasons we, as followers of Christ, need to say Goodbye to Eliphaz. Through additional examples from Scripture, media reports, and real life events, Coyle makes an engaging and clear case against the Eliphaz mentality.
The book of Job begins with this statement:
There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.Job 1:1 NLT
Did you catch that? Job did nothing wrong. He’s blameless. Job has done nothing to deserve what unfolds in the following pages of his story. Yet Job’s friend Eliphaz thinks he knows better. As Coyle points out:
“…Eliphaz, though backed by a multitude of passages from the Law and Psalms, spoke wrongly about who God is, how God works and how Scripture can be used to guide us through life. It was because of this that God was unhappy with Eliphaz and his two friends.”Goodbye to Eliphaz, pg. 202 – Rob Coyle
The book highlights this flawed reasoning that plagued the characters of the Bible just as much as it plagues our actions today. We want life to be easy to understand. We want all of our problems to have a neat and tidy solution. The problem, of course, is that not everything we face in this life can be easily explained.
Goodbye to Eliphaz focuses on a number of misunderstood, strange, or difficult passages of Scripture, and shows the shortcomings of simplistic attempts to understand them. As Coyle points out, we fail miserably when we try to place God, who is beyond the limits of our understanding, into the confines of our own reasoning. Through the stories of Uzzah, Moabites, sacrifices, strange fire, and the teachings of Jesus, Coyle helps us see that Scripture isn’t always as straightforward as we would like, and our understanding of the mind of God is woefully inadequate to explain all of life’s struggles.
Coyle reminds us in an intriguing and transforming way that life isn’t always easily explained by quoting a verse of Scripture. Going through life blaming every disaster and heartache on the sins of the people involved is simply unbiblical. It’s the very thing that causes God to chew out Eliphaz!
So what are we to do when life becomes unexplainable?
“If you are Eliphaz, let go and enter the mystery that is life. Enter into a world of unknowns, a world where uncertainties are acceptable.”Goodbye to Eliphaz, pg. 204 – Rob Coyle
Not having all the answers all the time is ok. That’s a truth this book has helped me (a chronic fixer) to remember, and I’m guessing you probably need the reminder as well. Perhaps one day, as the old hymn states, “We’ll understand it all by and by.” Until that time comes, you need to read this book so that you too can say Goodbye to Eliphaz.