Words that Help or Hurt?

Bible Reading: Job 4; 5; 6; 7 - Listen

Eliphaz sat with Job in silence for seven days (2:13). (It is a Jewish tradition to remain silent until the mourner speaks.) He and his friends had agreed to go and sympathize with Job and try to comfort him (2:11). Yet when Eli finally spoke, his words were neither sympathetic nor comforting. He expected Job to snap out of his discouragement. Job's despair was disconcerting to his friends, and Eli felt the need to diagnose and fix the problem. Eli pretended to understand Job's plight: "But if it were I, I would…." We can empathize with another person's misery, but we can never fully understand their pain or assume that we would respond differently when we have not walked in their shoes. Eli also pretended to know the reason for Job's suffering. He thought he could comprehend and define the mind and motives of God. Though much of Eli's counsel was true, his advice was both untimely and inappropriate to Job's situation. Though Eli had not witnessed any wrongdoing, he insisted that Job's suffering must be a result of God's correction and that Job should simply embrace God's discipline and, thus, receive God's healing. He insisted, "We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself" (5:27).

Job found Eli's advice empty and distasteful. He maintained that his walk was upright and challenged his friends to find him guilty of unrighteousness. Job's complaint was bitter. He believed he would never see happiness again (7:7), except in death. Yet, his goal remained the same... to accept and embrace God's word. "At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One" (6:10 NLT). Job then turned his complaint to God. He asked him to leave him alone, and begged to know the answer to the age-old question, "Why?"

Lord, help me to display true compassion and comfort to those who are hurting. Help me suppress the desire to say something or to fix things when all I should do is to sit and weep with a friend. Let me never sit in judgment of those who suffer. Instead, let me offer up continuous prayers to support and sustain them when their spirit can only cry out for relief, and plead to know why they must suffer. When I endure deep despair and grief, protect me from losing my faith and rejecting your words. May I reap a host of friends who will support me in my pain because of the grace and strength you give me to stand by them in their darkest hours.