Read: Job 3:1 – 4:21
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? Job 4:7
I find it very refreshing that God lets us see the hearts and thoughts of real people through the stories in the Bible. He doesn’t condone all of these thoughts, but it helps me to know that our thoughts and our conversations with him and with others never take him by surprise. In this section of scripture we find Job being completely honest and transparent in his grief. And we find a friend trying to help him.
If you are not familiar with Job’s story, he was a prosperous man who was blessed with wealth and a large healthy family. He was a good man. God called him blameless and upright. But God gave Satan permission to strip Job of all of his blessings. He lost his wealth, all of his children were killed, and then he was inflicted with a painful ailment that produced sores all over his body.
In Chapter 3 Job is lamenting to three of his friends. Wishing he had never been born because his pain is so extreme. No, Job never turned his faith from God, but he definitely, honestly wished he were dead, wished things were different, and wished he understood why he was suffering.
To add to his suffering, as Job shares his heart and his vulnerability, his friend, Eliphaz, responds by questioning his integrity. Eliphaz doesn’t believe God would allow the kind of pain Job was in, unless it was a punishment for some kind of sin. The anguish for Job must have just increased even more.
As much as the book of Job is a lesson on suffering it also teaches lessons on our friendship with God and our friendship with others. The two lessons I find here are these:
1. In times of suffering, true comfort comes from God alone. As much as we may lean on others in our times of suffering, our true comfort can’t reliably come from any other person than God. God is the only one who knows every aspect of our suffering, the only one who knows why we suffer, and the only one who knows how to fully help us through our suffering.
Eliphaz couldn’t fathom that God would let Job suffer like he was unless he had done something wrong. He couldn’t fully grasp the complexities of it all in his mind, and because of that, he failed to support Job in the way Job needed. Others may want to help us in times of trouble, and in many ways they can, but they aren’t equipped like God.
No matter how wise or how godly, or how experienced, they may fail to be what we need. They can’t carry that burden on themselves anyway, and we can’t expect that from them. God is the only one who is capable and fully reliable to come alongside us in our suffering.
2. Eliphaz is an example of how NOT to support a friend in times of trouble. If you don’t know the answers, don’t try to act as if you do, and definitely don’t blame someone for his or her own suffering. The best thing Job’s friends did for him was sit in silence with him for seven days (Job 2:11-13). Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be present.
We are told to help those in need, mourn with those who mourn, and ease suffering when we are able. But we must be very careful, when in trying to help that we don’t make things worse. Be prayerful and careful as you tend to your loved ones in need. Love and serve them and point them to the One who is the ultimate source of the comfort they need.
Oh Father, the topic of suffering is so complex and hard for us to navigate. Help us, Lord, as we face suffering in our own lives and in the lives around us. Let us lean into you and draw strength and perspective, as well as compassion and wisdom. Thank you that you haven’t left us on our own in this fallen and broken world. No matter what, You are good. In happy times and hard times, you are faithful. May your name be praised forever more!