Job's friends pepper their misleading message with kernels of truth. Here Elihu reminds Job that God works in mysterious ways by pointing out the inscrutability of nature.
In a situation beyond our control, sometimes we can do nothing but throw up our hands. Imagine the emotions that overwhelmed the people of San Francisco in the wake of the 1906 earthquake.
When would they listen? Dennis Sullivan had 320 horses to pull the trucks and dozens of dogs to sound the alarm, but as San Francisco's fire chief, he felt the critical need for a saltwater supplement to the city's limited freshwater supply. Sullivan couldn't forget the previous six times the city had burned, and he knew that just seven years earlier, his men had been unable to stop a raging fire in a local hotel. In 1905, the National Board of Fire Underwriters' Committee declared the city to have a perfectly acceptable level of preparedness. The one man who felt strongly otherwise was about to realize his worst fears: the largest earthquake the city had ever experienced.
On April 18, Sullivan and his wife slept at the firehouse. Later that morning he was scheduled to testify before the mayor in federal court concerning his warnings about the city's low level of preparedness. But that chance never came. At 5:12 a.m., a 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the town awake, sending thousands instantly to their deaths as buildings ripped in half and bridges collapsed. Thousands more died in the fires that swept across the city for the next four days. The dome of the California Hotel crashed through the fire station, and Sullivan fell three stories into the chasm that opened up beneath him. He died four days later, within the burning city he had staunchly fought to protect.
The earthquake shook a 375,000-square-mile area, knocking down millions of trees and any buildings close to the fault line. The quake not only left San Francisco without its fire chief but also destroyed two of the water mains connecting the fire water supply to the city. Ultimately, the quake cast the city's inadequacies back on itself with unimaginable force.