When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.
You know about Job. He’s long been a model for patience amidst extreme suffering.
To gain meaning from our focus text, let’s review what has happened to this prosperous farmer.
- Marauders and lightning killed his livestock.
- A powerful dessert wind blew down his house resulting in the deaths of his children.
- Satan has afflicted him with sores all over his body.
So — three well-meaning friends get together to discuss Job’s plight and then plan a visit with the goals of expressing sympathy and comfort. A worthy endeavor.
Ever heard the expression, “He meant well,” or “She meant well?” What we mean is: the effort fell short of the intended purpose. And that’s what happened when Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar visited Job.
The meeting started out okay, but then turned into a theological debate about the reason for Job’s suffering. The focus turned from Job’s suffering to the reasons. It had to be sin. You must have done something wrong.
Often times, in our efforts aimed at helping others we zero in on the cause and not the pain. What we’re saying is, “You brought this on yourself.” “It’s your fault.” Even when the assessment is accurate, the suffering party already knows. There’s a time and a place for dealing with the root cause. But first, we should do our best to relieve the pain.
I’ll never forget the pain I suffered from a defective gall bladder. Before x-rays and an examination, I wanted relief. “Can’t you give me something for pain?”
Give ministry to the suffering that eases their pain.
There’s a phrase in verse 11 that begs attention. They “met together by agreement.” What was discussed at that meeting? Were they concerned friends or friends of the nosey variety?
Helping friends should be without hidden agenda. Caring for the misfortunes of others is not a time for gathering information to be used for gossip or snooping for our personal edification.
Frequently, the best thing you can do for a hurting friend is just be there. Be a good listener. Ease their burden by bringing a meal or an appropriate gift or card.
Gauge your level of ministry on how well you know the person who is suffering. Ask permission before jumping into a household chore.
Believe it or not, some people prefer to be left alone when they’re hurting. Honor that.
Be willing to help any way you can but do it respectfully. One statement that is always helpful is to tell them you’ll be praying for them. Just don’t forget to live up to that promise.
We can learn a lot from the three visitors who had intended to comfort and give sympathy to Job. Their effort ended in upsetting Job more than helping him.
Care. Be compassionate. Don’t meddle. Respect. Don’t overdo it. Be considerate. LISTEN. Love. Pray.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Love Means You Sometimes Have to Say You’re Sorry
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.