Job 4:12-5:7 (ESV)
“Now a word was brought to me stealthily; my ear received the whisper of it. Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice: ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like the moth. Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces; they perish forever without anyone regarding it. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them, do they not die, and that without wisdom?’
“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
Seriously Eliphaz? This is what you think Job needs to hear right now? The poor guy has lost all his children. He has loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. He’s sitting in ashes, so beat down that you didn’t even recognize him at first. You can see that he has a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sits in the ashes.
So, after a whole week without saying a word, he finally speaks and you take that as a cue to give him a lecture on abstract theology. Good grief. Here’s a suggestion.
“Job, I’m here for you. What can I do to help?”
We are always qualified to offer comfort and prayer. We are not always qualified to offer counsel. Many times I have stupidly offered advice when encouragement and prayer were what was needed.
Generally, that was when I had incomplete information. The times when my advice was useful were when it was asked for and the asker made sure I had all the facts.
Unless you’ve just been through a very similar experience, you can’t understand someone’s pain. Even if you have, how it affected you may have been different. It takes a lot of listening to get up to speed on someone else’s pain.
And they need someone else to listen long enough that they can truly empathize. So, the most important thing is often just being there. Praying for someone is important, but knowing what to pray for is important too.
Who do you know that’s in pain? Are they getting comfort from the Christian community?
Show up. Chat. Be there. Listen. Pray.
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