READ: Read the passage aloud slowly, keeping in mind that Eliphaz from Teman is speaking to his friend Job, who has just experienced the death of his children and the loss of all he had.
(17-19) “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you! Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of the Almighty God! True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound; the same hand that hurts you, heals you. From one disaster after another he delivers you; no matter what the calamity, the evil can’t touch you–
(20-21) “In famine, he’ll keep you from starving; in war, from being gutted by the sword. You’ll be protected from vicious gossip and live fearless through any catastrophe.
THINK: Read the passage again and put yourself in the place of Job, who listened to these words. How do they fall on your ear?
Read the passage again and put yourself in the place of Eliphaz. What feelings and attitudes fill you as you speak these words?
- What makes a comforter really helpful? Is telling the truth enough?
- What did Job need from Eliphaz?
- What might be in the heart of a person who preaches at someone who is so far down?
PRAY: Ask the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to give you what is needed to truly comfort despairing people. If you want guidance for your prayer, ask the Comforter to give you tools to help people in trouble go to him. Ask him to give you tools to draw them out to say to him whatever they need to express. Plead with the Comforter to make you his messenger, to prevent you from moralizing and giving advice.
LIVE: Rest your mind on someone who is in deep trouble. Pray only the word PEACE for them–no suggestions, no fixing, no rescuing. Just trusting.
I have been Eliphaz so many times in my life I cannot even count. Maybe that sounds weird coming from a counselor. Maybe it just sounds insecure. It ought to. Because for myself, I can say that when I have sounded like Eliphaz it has been because I have been extremely insecure. It has happened most often when someone is sitting in front of me telling me a sad story of something that has happened in his (or her) life, and I’ve wanted to say something so desperately to make sense out of all of it. As if I could. I’ve wanted to make it better. I’ve wanted to be comforting but never felt like I had words enough to express my deep sorrow.
Then, my life went sideways. I had plenty of people to talk to, plenty of people willing to listen, who actually cared when they asked me how I felt. And the people who helped me the most were the ones who had no idea what to say, and said so. Or, they said nothing at all. They didn’t try to make sense of my life for me. They didn’t offer me trite passages of Scripture, taken out of context.
But, then, there were people who did have something to offer. You know who they were? The people who had truly suffered in their lives. The comfort they offered, through a well-timed passage of scripture that helped them while they were suffering: that was golden! But…to be honest, I don’t even remember most of those scriptures. What I remember most was the overwhelming sense of being heard and understood. I had been comforted with the comfort they had received when they most needed it. Their spirits ministered to mine in my deepest hour (or hours) of need. It was in those moments that I felt most loved!
It was in those moments, too, that I learned the benefits and blessings and comfort of just sitting with someone who is hurting. Of being willing to hear anything that needed to be said. Of being willing to sit in the uncomfortable silence if there weren’t words enough to express the hurt.
I don’t think I will ever know all the whys concerning our situation. Finally, I’m getting to the point that I don’t feel it will be necessary. What I do know is that this situation could not have been better timed in my education as a Christian counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist. Before this thing happened in my family’s life, I had serious doubts. I doubted if I was pursuing the right line of education. I doubted if I would ever be able to help anybody. I didn’t doubt enough to quit. But then…I don’t quit. By the time you have as much money invested in something as I have in this, you don’t quit. Even if you don’t do anything with it, you don’t quit. Even when life knocks you sideways and you feel like you have no business trying to finish something as “high-falootin'” as a Master’s Degree, you don’t quit.
So, I didn’t quit. And now, here I am, in the last of my classes, and – because of this thing that has happened in my life – I am certain that I have pursued the right line of work. Not only am I certain that I am in the right degree field, but I am convinced that I did not actually choose it.
In fact, the last time I was here at Liberty, taking the first two of my four intensives, people asked me why I chose the Marriage and Family program instead of the License Professional Counselor program. The only answer I could give: I didn’t, actually. It chose me. In the first place, I had no idea there was such a thing as a Licensed Professional Counseling program when I first signed on at Liberty. But, I knew that I wanted to help families. My husband and I had both lived through our own parents’ divorces, and we were making it, so I also wanted to be able to offer my services to struggling couples. So…the first person I talked to suggested the Marriage and Family program and that’s what I took. It was just as simple, and unplanned, as that.
And now…here I am. And once I decided to stop whining about the valley God decided to lead me through, I began to see the beauty all around me. It seems weird to say it, and I don’t know quite how to explain it, but I have come to see beauty in the midst of suffering. Or, in the vulnerability and the sweetness of the depth of relationships that suffering can have if you let God do His Work.
Don’t get me wrong. The process of suffering is ugly. It hurts and it doesn’t make sense most of the time. But, if you can look past what’s on the surface, look past the walls people are putting up, and sit with them long enough to trust that you are safe, you will start to see the real person underneath. You will come to a place of being able to love that person as God loves them. And you will see their true beauty. With some people it happens faster than with others. But, fortunately, when you grow up with people who’ve been deeply hurt, you learn really quickly not to let walls and angry barks scare you away. You learn to stick with it, because you know, deep down in your soul, that every person is worth listening to. BUT, you have to get over yourself, and your urge to fix them. They don’t need fixing! They need to be heard. They need to know that someone values them the way their Creator does.
THAT’S WHAT TRUE COMFORT LOOKS LIKE.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for coming down out of heaven to make a way for us to be able to get there. Thank you that you made a way for us to have peace on this earth, even in the midst of trials and suffering.
Thank you that you do not leave us alone until your work is completed. Thank you for your patience.
I pray, now, for those who are hurting today. I pray that you would comfort them. I pray that you would send them people to comfort them and hold them, and let them be as ugly as they need to be. But, most of all, I pray for them peace. I don’t know all the answers. Nobody does, but you. So, only You can offer the peace that passes all understanding. For all the hurting in the world, for anyone reading this that desperately needs your Comfort right now, please rain it down upon them right now. Make it unmistakably obvious. Make it tangible even.
Thank you for loving us!
In Jesus’ Name I pray,