“A person who tries to console or help someone and not only fails but ends up making the other feel worse.” Wordsmith.org
In the book of Job, we see a man who is suffering without knowing why. He has lived a life of piety, revering God in all that he says and does. Yet, calamity of the worst sort comes upon him. In a day Job lost his children and possessions. Then, on another day, he lost his health. In pain, with boils over his whole body, his wife asks him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NKJV) (She must have been a peach to live with).
Then his “friends’ come along, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite to “comfort” him. That is where everything breaks down. You see, the point of their comfort was this: Job was suffering because of some secret sin he was trying to hide from God. So, instead of comforting him, they beat him up.
The book of Job is believed to be one of the oldest books of the Bible. In fact, many scholars believe that Job was a contemporary of Abraham, the father of faith (Romans 4:16). Of the book of Job, C.I. Schofield says, “The subject of Job is God’s providential and ethical government considered in the light of the age-old problem of the suffering of a righteous man. To this problem, neither Job who justified himself, nor his three counselors who charged him with sin, had the solution.”
I say all this, because I want to give you some background. The problem is that Job’s comforters were wrong, and they are still with us today, and they are still wrong.
I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with those who have been “comforted” by Job’s comforters. They leave a trail of destruction wherever they go. They consider it their duty to point out the sin of those who have suffered some type of loss or sorrow or to offer platitudes (empty words intended to comfort that are like clouds without water). They can’ help themselves; they just have to speak. Often on subjects they have no knowledge of.
Some of the cruel things they have said, in time of sorrow, are things like:
“If you would have had enough faith, that baby wouldn’t of died. “ (said to a friend of mine after his six day old daughter died).
“God didn’t have enough angels, so he took your daughter and made her one.” (said to another friend of mine).
“God is judging them for their sinful behavior.” (said of the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina).
“If you were more affectionate towards your husband, he wouldn’t of committed adultery.” (I have heard this several times, given as counsel by some pastors).
I’m sure that some of you reading this can add more. The cruel things that come out of their mouths are often unbelievable; and destructive. And therein lies the problem.
The things they say do not comfort. They make things worse. They think they mean well, but the really don’t think before they speak. Often, there is judgment in their hearts (as was the case with Job’s “friends.”) Job was guilty, they thought, and it is our duty to tell him so. So much for comfort.
One of Job’s comments to his “friends” is found in Job 6:14: “To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” (NKJV). Job is stating that he should have the compassion of his councilors, even of he were to forsake God, to draw him back. And this is my point: Compassion.
Dicitonary.com defines compassion as, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
Here are a few verses of Scripture that deal with the subject of comfort:
Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (NKJV).
Sometimes the best thing we can do is not to say a thing, but sit with them and weep. You may not realize it but, your council is often not as important as you think it is.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (NKJV).
We are to comfort others in their time of sorrow just as God has comforted us in our time of sorrow. Now honestly, has God ever told you that if you had enough faith this or that would not of happened? If he has, you are not listening to the voice of conviction, but rather, the voice of condemnation; and if you are in Christ, you will never be condemned.
1 Thessalonians 5:14: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” (NKJV).
Comfort the fainthearted; don’t condemn them, don’t point out what you think is their sin, don’t offer platitudes.
In the end of the book of Job, God speaks to Job’s comforters: “And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.’” (Job 42:7-8, NKJV)
The book of Job is as much about the behavior and council of his comforters as it is about the suffering of Job’s. Think about it…