Job’s “friend” Eliphaz gave a good bit of a lesson on misconceptions, but Bildad shows up and adds another layer to the misconception lesson. And Bildad’s misconception is fairly common. His misconception about God? That God does only “good” things for the righteous. It bears note that Bildad is both right and wrong in what he is saying, but the most convincing lies are mostly truth.
Before I go too far into this, a little definition of terms may be necessary. See, we — people — are wont to call “good” that which is pleasant, pleasurable, enjoyable, and immediately beneficial. We understand “good” in a different sense, though, when we speak of things like healthy foods and habits and say that they are “good for you.” The difference is significant. What we generally call “good” is not, strictly speaking, good, but rather pleasant. It is pleasant to gorge myself on chocolate. It is pleasant to sit around on the couch and do nothing. It is pleasant to avoid difficulties in life. Pleasant, but not good. It is good to enjoy chocolate in moderation along with a variety of other foods that are more healthful. It is good to relax on the couch after working on something and before moving on to the next thing that needs doing. It is good to endure the difficulties in life and come through them stronger. All of these are good, but not always pleasant. So I will be considering the term good in the latter sense. Something good is something that is of ultimate benefit to me and will, in the final estimation, result in something pleasurable and pleasant.
Bildad is right in that God promises that everything He does in the life of the righteous — those who love Him and are called according to His purpose — is for good (Romans 8:28). This good is similar to that of working out. A balanced workout regimen keeps a person fit and ready to do anything their body is capable of doing (and a fair few things it would not otherwise be capable of doing). Likewise, the good that God is working everything out for in the lives of the righteous is for a future application. Sure, our good may sometimes, perhaps even often, have pleasant results in the here and now. Exercise can have short term benefits in addition to its long term ones. The point is not that I can run down the street right now, but that I can run a marathon when I’m fit (this is for illustration, I don’t run unless there’s something dangerous behind me).
Bildad is horribly, terribly wrong when he thinks that only pleasant and pleasurable things will befall righteous individuals. Jesus told His disciples that God causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil and for rain to fall on the righteous as well as the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). In the pre-plumbing (aqueducts notwithstanding) agrarian society of the time, sun and rain were the two greatest blessings a person could hope for and do absolutely nothing about. The message: Good things happen to everyone. Jesus also made a (rather unpopular) promise, in John 16:33, that His disciples will have tribulation in this world. God never once promises smooth sailing to those who follow Him. Jesus challenges anyone who wants to follow to pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) and follow Him. Translation: Carry the instrument of your death on your back and get in line behind Jesus.
Bildad’s error is common today. So common that believers fall into the trap of thinking that life will be hunky-dory after deciding to follow Jesus. In terms of my right standing with God, life will absolutely be hunky-dory. With regard to just about everything else — nope. I catch myself falling into this error. I fell into it twice this week alone. I encountered rough seas and wondered what I had done wrong. For all I know, I might have done something wonderfully right. There’s no knowing. There are believers who think that right standing with God means they will never be sick and never get near poverty and so on. That is all patently ridiculous. Jesus Himself was poor on Earth. Paul’s eyesight was failing and Timothy had chronic stomach issues. Paul wrote that he, a believer, wanted to be united in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings (Philippians 3:10). My conclusion: life is going to be difficult for everyone, but especially so for those who approach nearest to Christ.