October 13 – Today’s Readings – Job 4-6 and Psalms 103

The theme of personal, undeserved suffering is quite prevalent in the Book of Job. This in turn means that there are several “life lessons” to be learned from these passages.The first of these is found in Chapter 4:2b where Eliphaz the Temanite blurts out, “But who can keep from speaking”? We tend to have lots of trouble keeping our mouths shut when people are in anguish. We imagine that suffering friends want to hear our “wisdom” or that we might have a solution to their agony. We have a notion that our words will relieve their pain or somehow change the situation. We falsely believe that our superior analysis will make our friends re-examine the problem and lead them to immediate results. There are indeed occasions when our words may set people free but when a brother is hurting and is sitting on an ash-heap, scrapping his boils with broken pottery, the very best thing we can do is to quietly sit with him without saying a word. Sometimes the only questions to be asked are, “Can I do anything for you?” or “Can I pray for you?” This is not a time for sermonizing – this is not a time for giving the suffering soul “counsel” unless they specifically ask for it! Don’t begin to second-guess why your friend is suffering – just “be there” for them and pray compassionately for them. We have much to learn about “comforting” people when they are in distress but the first thing we must be trained in is to not say too much! The next time you have opportunity to visit in hospital, try praying before you get there and use the wisdom of the Holy Spirit – the real “comforter” – to help you with your words. This may mean that you refrain from preaching about how all their troubles would go away if they would only listen to your “wisdom”.

Unfortunately, Eliphaz continued to speak – and he ended up causing pain; “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? ‘Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (Job 4:6-7) What is Eliphaz really saying here? – “You obviously have a problem with guilt Job, because God does not allow this kind of stuff to happen to an innocent man.” We will speak more on this subject as we read further in the book of Job, but permit me to say this one thing – If we, without divine knowledge, conclude that a brother’s current tragic situation is a direct result of their guilt, sin or lack of faith then we are judging things that only God has the authority to judge. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” James the half brother of Jesus put it this way, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12) Lets learn more about grace and compassion when dealing with situations that are difficult to understand. It would have been far more helpful if Eliphaz had brought Job a glass of cold water, instead of trying to counsel him, heaping fire on his head.

Questions:

1. Give another example from Scripture where someone was “condemned” as a sinner when they had done nothing wrong.
2. Give an example from your own life or a friend’s life where someone got all “preachy” when all that was really needed was compassion. [Please don’t use real names!!]