READ: As you read the passage, consider what might have been comforting for Job and what might have left him more hurt than before.
Once again, Eliphaz the Temanite took up this theme:
“Are any of us strong enough to give God a hand, or smart enough to give him advice? So what if you were righteous – would God Almighty even notice? Even if you gave a perfect performance, do you think he’d applaud? Do you think it’s because he cares about your purity that he’s disciplining you, putting you on the spot? Hardly! It’s because you’re a first-class moral failure, because there’s no end to your sins. When people came to you for help, you took the shirts off their backs, exploited their helplessness. You wouldn’t so much as give a drink to the thirsty, or food, not even a scrap, to the hungry. And there you sat, strong and honored by everyone, surrounded by immense wealth! You turned poor widows away from your door; heartless, you crushed orphans. Now you’re the one trapped in terror, paralyzed by fear. Suddenly the tables have turned! How do you like living in the dark, sightless, up to your neck in flood waters?”
Have there been times when you wished people would refrain from giving you perfectly packaged and Christian cliches in an attempt to console you? “Pray harder.” “You’ll have to persevere.” “Oh, God’s just working on you.” “Search for the sin in your life and get rid of it.” “Obey God.” Maybe you didn’t know what you wanted in your suffering, but that definitely was’t it. Sometimes true comfort comes through silence and a hug.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar don’t offer comfort, but instead attempt to convince Job of his sins. This time it’s the social sin of neglecting the poor, hungry, and the naked – none of which Job is guilty of.
Who are the people you interact with on a regular basis who are suffering emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical pain?
What are some ways you can appropriately comfort them in their pain?
PRAY: Who are hurting people in your life? Pray for them, submitting to God’s guidance for how to best serve and minister to them.
LIVE: Consider a friend or acquaintance who needs comfort. Prayerfully approach a suffering individual, asking God to keep you from being someone who merely offers trite words that fall short.
I wrote about this very thing just a couple of days ago, being silent when you don’t have anything helpful to say. I have been guilty of this more times than I’d like to admit. I haven’t done it on purpose. What happens is that I just get so uncomfortable with the pain of the person sitting in front of me that I just ant it go away. I’ve wanted to be able to say something, anything to help them make some sense of a senseless situation. Or maybe, I just wanted to feel like I had done something more than just sit there. Or worse, often, I just wanted to stop feeling uncomfortable myself? How arrogant! The sad fact is, whether my intention was to do harm or not, I have done some harm.
For that realization, I have to say that this situation we’ve been living through has been a blessing. Another blessing is that I can even say that. This time a year ago, I’d have never been able to say that anything about this was a blessing. I had found a good thing or two that happened as a result of being allowed to go through our ordeal. But, to say that the whole thing is a blessing: NO! Not a year ago. Not almost 2 years ago now.
Yesterday, I was faced with a friend whose husband has been sick for a very long time.
He is currently in hospice care, and has been once before. He’s been close to “going home” many times. My friend was pretty certain that all she wanted for her man was peace and the healing that being called home to Heaven could bring. Yesterday, she had to tell me that he is getting close to the end. As prepared as this woman has been saying she is, when she stood before me yesterday, she was a mess. She and I did not get to know each other until after our situation started, and ever since, she has been a source of inspirational comfort for me many times. She understands suffering and has not had trite words to offer me. Yesterday, because of what I’ve had to go through, I was able to stand in front of her and have more than trite words of Scripture taken out of context and Christian cliches to offer her. It was no less painful standing before her, watching her heart break, but I didn’t feel like I just needed to make it go away because I was uncomfortable. I was able to look at her, allow her to feel her pain, allow her to be the most important person to me right at that moment, and respect what she was going through and how she was feeling, without feeling the need to minimize it or make sense of it.
I have known since this whole thing started that everything I would go through would help me when I started working as a counselor, but I had no idea it would help me to become a better friend too. Even if that’s all I get from this, if it keeps me from being one of Job’s friends to one of my friends, what a gift that would be to those who I call friend!