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Job and His "Miserable Comforters"

(Job 2:11; 4:1,6,7; 8:1-6; 13:1-4)

Lesson 3 -- third quarter 1998
June 21, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

"This is all your fault! No matter why who said what when, you were wrong to have done that!" That's a pretty heavy-duty accusation, eh? "You are reaping what you have sown." This one isn't quite the mouthful as the first, but still packs plenty of wallop. As Job discovered, condemning words during affliction of soul have the therapeutic effect of battery acid on an open wound. And the question for us today is not "How shall we respond to miserable comforters?" but rather "How can we avoid being miserable comforters?"

Notice that Job's friends got off to an admirable start: They came and sat in silence with Job, being miserable with the miserable. Then, feeling that familiar human compulsion to say something meaningful, proceeded to talk. What issued forth were bombs not balm, inflicting further misery on the miserable.

How shall we avoid well-intentioned insensitivity in our efforts to help and comfort the sufferer? I believe we must begin with asking God to give us a merciful heart, a perceptive spirit, and a generous tongue. Our efforts would also be well served if we could review our feelings during our own sufferings. Then go to the sufferer and....

BE SILENT. We all tend to think we need to say something, else why bother going?! So we naturally worry about what to say that will be profound, incisive or helpful. Well, don't. At this point, your friend needs you more than your words. If your friend wants to be silent, you be silent as well; silent and present, not silent in absence. Not a moody silence, but an empathetic, praying silence. If your friends wants to talk, listen. Do so carefully and prayerfully. Listen with your heart as well as your ears. Don't worry about responding or correcting. You are there to listen; you will respond on another occasion.

BE ENCOURAGING. Right or wrong, this person may already be discouraged. For better or for worse, your friend already sees plenty of shortcomings. In many cases, the sufferer may not understand why this has come upon her. You do her a great disservice by adding further discouragement, pointing out an overlooked failing, or bemoaning your own puzzlement over the circumstances. This is the time to give hope! This is the time to help your friend achieve a change of focus! Encourage trust in God. (By the way, what Scriptures would you use to accomplish that?!) Encourage grateful thankfulness. (Any verses?) Encourage service to others. (Do you know your Bible well enough for this?) Encourage an awareness of what else is happening in life. In other words, turn her focus away from herself.

RESTORE. When you see (or think you see) fault that led to suffering, be careful! This person may well need correcting, even rebuking. But don't be in a hurry to administer these. Remember many desperately-needed surgeries aren't performed until the patient is strong enough to bear the intrusion. Also keep in mind that even God hasn't overloaded us with truth merely because we need it.

If find that most miserable comforters tend toward self-absorption: What shall I do, what shall I say, how shall I present what I see, why should I go in the first place, I'm glad this didn't happen to me, this wouldn't happen to me, and so forth. So turn your eyes away from yourself. Care about your friend. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

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