While others may judge our lives by what happens to us, God judges us by how we handle what happens to us. What is important is not whether or not we experience times of affliction, but rather how we handle ourselves when affliction comes. Elihu challenges Job in the way he was handling his affliction.
"But you were full of judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice take hold of you." (Job 36:17) Job had become obsessed with proving himself right and others wrong. Job's sense of self righteousness caused him to look upon all others with judgment. He was right and, if someone disagreed with him, they must be wrong. His heart had become critical of everyone else. In his eyes, no one, not even God, was as righteous as himself.
"Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing; and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside." (Job 36:18) When we give place to anger, it blinds us to the work that God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us. Job's anger at being wronged kept him from perceiving that God was at work in his life, and possibly in the life of his three friends as well. Job became a scoffer. He figured that his three friends were wrong and that they were never going to change. Have you ever known someone who, when you think of them, you think more on their errors than their good points. When you hear something about them, do you think, "well that's just the way they are. They will never change." The truth is, however, that no one is beyond the grace of God to be changed. Their ransom is not too great, Jesus already paid it.
"Will your riches keep you from distress, or all the forces of your strength?" (Job 36:19) No one is exempt from difficulty. Whether rich or poor, smart or simple, all people experience difficulties from time to time. We should not be surprised at the difficulties in our life, they are normal. But they are also an opportunity to experience the grace of God in a new way. In difficult times we can experience the salvation of God in ways we can never experience during times of ease.
"Be careful, do not turn to evil, for you have preferred this to affliction." (Job 36:21) People handle affliction in different ways. Job's way was to strike out. To defend himself against his friends. The more Job suffered, the more critical his words became. Even to the point of actually accusing God of wrong and judging himself more righteous that God. Job struggled against his affliction and the result was sin. What Job needed to do was to stop his striving and accept his affliction. His striving and struggling were not going to get him out of his difficult times. His struggling was turning him away from God not towards God. He needed to settle down and come humbly to God, and let God lead him through his difficulties. Given the choice, we too need to prefer affliction over turning to evil.
"Behold, God is exalted in His power; who is a teacher like Him?" (Job 36:22) God is the teacher and we are the student. We must remember that we are not wiser, nor smarter, than our teacher. We must let God teach and set our hearts to learn all we can. Also, we must remember that we are not our brother's teacher. It is not our job to "teach" others a lesson. They are God's student and we must respect their relationship with God their teacher. We are all brothers, we are all students.