A FLOOD OF KINDNESS THAT CAN TURN WATERLESS IN DESOLATE TIMES:
“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which vanish, which are turbid because of ice, And into which the snow melts, When they become waterless, they are silent, When it is hot, they vanish from their place. The paths of their course wind along, They go up into nothing and perish, The caravans of Tema looked, The travelers of Sheba hope for them. They were disappointed for they had trusted, They came there and were confounded” (Job 6:14-20 NAS).
“Now to me you are [like a dried-up brook]; you see my dismay and terror, and [believing me to be a victim of God’s anger] you are afraid [to sympathize with me]” (Job 6:21 AMP).
THE BOOK OF JOB:
For the last week or so, I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK OF JOB. Where else is there a better story in the Bible, to try to “dig” out the truth and to try to understand the “mysteries of suffering” in comforting friends; how to approach the details of the situation–how much do we need to know, to pray for them effectively, what can we say to them without making everything worse? All good questions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have all the answers. But what I did find in my investigation of God’s Word, the bible, it certainly answered a few of my questions and hopefully answer a few of yours as well.
Job’s Faith, His Friend’s Fears…
Job doesn’t know what the book’s audience knows:
1. God Himself had praised Job’s righteousness…
2. Satan had been the one who wanted to strike him down (Job 1:8-12).
Although, while reading through the story, I find that Job is right, in the sense that GOD has done it (12:9; 17:6; 23:16), but he doesn’t know the entire story. Neither do we in dealing with our friends maladies.
At the end of the Book, when GOD challenges human questions, He doesn’t bother to inform Job or his friends about Satan’s role in accusing Job in the heavenly court.
Two Principles Given to us for direction…
FIRST, Satan cannot touch GOD’s servant without GOD’s permission! In fact, GOD earlier protected Job’s health (1:2), and afterward his life (2:6) from Satan.
So if we are GOD’s servants in this life on earth, we can TRUST that GOD KNOWS every hair on our heads; He may not initiate the “suffering,” but He still cares and has a purpose. SUFFERING may test us (cf. 23:10), but it is NOT always a punishment.
SECOND, Job didn’t really need to know; what went on in heaven. We don’t need to understand the universal dynamics behind the suffering; we just need to know that GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY.
–It is GOD and not Satan with whom we ultimately must deal with in times of trouble, and Job was right to make an appeal to GOD.
–We don’t have all the answers; neither do we have to. We just need to REMEMBER the One who watches over us, does have the answers.
How Do We Help People Who Are Really Going Through Stuff–“Suffering”?
Job 2:11-13 in the NIV Bible:
 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 (Job), they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
Have you ever visited someone in a hospital, a nursing home who was so ill, that their appearance was unrecognizable? Their hair was unkempt, they had lost so much weight and lay there so frail… you felt liked turning your back and weep in the hallway. I experienced this very thing with my mother before she died in 2008. You ask yourself, What can I do, say, pray for this friend? All good questions to ask.
In time of COMFORT…
If you have ever read the Book of Job, you find that Job’s friends came to COMFORT him in a time of loss, but later debate with him.
In verse 13, there is a key to be found when visiting a friend in suffering: “No one said a word…”.
A close friend of mine recognized this verse with this simple idea: “The three friends were of comfort until…they opened their big mouths!” There’s some real wisdom in that observation. Sometimes we confess to ourselves and others, “I would call them, or go by to see them, but I don’t know what to say.” Just BEING THERE is sometimes enough–‘no one said a word for seven days and nights’–they were JUST THERE TO COMFORT their friend… in SILENCE.
A Time For Weeping–verse 12
Crying or weeping differs in cultures. In some societies, wailing in the midst of suffering can bring comfort to others. When I was growing up, the idea of boys or men crying aloud showed weakness; “you hurt your knee…put a band-aid on it…’suck it up’… it will get better later.” I remember thinking, “How much later?”
Reminds me of a story I found and read while studying for this blog; a conversation that transpired between a mother and her daughter:
“Where have you been?” the mother demanded. The little girl replied, “On my way home, I met a friend who was crying because she had broken her doll.” “Oh”, said her mother, “then you stopped to help her fix the doll?” “Oh, no,” replied the little girl, “I stopped to help her cry.”
TWO THINGS the Bible says about CRYING:
#1. “Don’t grieve like those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
#2. “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15).
Sometimes Our “Feelings” Interfere With Our “Comforting” —
FEELINGS of hating to go visit someone who is suffering from…DEATH of a family member; sickness; losing their job, and many more examples of “suffering.” We have this little dialogue in our heads, and I say “we” because, I’ve had these thoughts too many times in my own head:
— I would be touching their pain if I dropped by, or called them, or sent them an E-mail…
— I reasoned, whatever I might say, wouldn’t be of much help.
— They would probably think I was a ‘meddler’ anyway.
— Maybe I would just make things worse.
— Someone else, like their pastor, my pastor could probably help more.
Those FEELINGS are normal…but they are wrong! We ALL need to know others care, as we have the same need!
After sitting with Job for a week, his friends blew it. They had a need to explore what went wrong and why Job suffered so much. They seemed certain that Job must have done something wrong; there must be some unconfessed sin in his life, thus GOD was punishing him. THEY WERE WRONG!!
CHRIST is the Head, and WE, the Church are His body…
He has put ALL THINGS under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church], Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself] (Ephesians 1:22-23 AMP).
There you have it friends. JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He can minister to the “suffering” by His Spirit; through His body [that’s us!]. Since the physical body has appendages–arms, hands, legs, feet–we need to use are feet more often to minister, to comfort those who are in need. Don’t wait for someone else to go.
Expressing Deep Feelings in a Tangible Way…
“Tearing their robes” (verse 12)
This was the custom of that day, to show deep feelings. We certainly don’t tear our shirts as a custom today, so how else do you communicate to someone you so feel for them and feeling their pain?
Tearing one’s shirt says, “I feel torn inside”–“I feel so badly for you, that it’s tearing me up!” Do you know what we tend to do? We want to somehow cheer them up, so we say, “Oh don’t feel so bad.” “It will get better.” “You have your whole life ahead of you.” “It’s too bad your mother died but she was 70, the bible says, 70 to 80 years and that’s it! We have to expect it.” I don’t know about you, but those words wouldn’t COMFORT me! Another approach is to say, “Well, I went through that one…and let me tell you what I did. I just got up, brushed myself off and moved on with life.”
Inside, the SUFFERING individual is feeling, “Yeah, right! Good for you! How soon will you be leaving?”
Sharing our own SUFFERING with others…
We’ve gone through our own share of suffering, sometimes the other person will ask us how we got through it. In that case, tell them, but unless they ask, just be there for them. Even if it’s hard–even if you feel like you don’t have the right words to say. You don’t.
Being Simply There For Someone Who Needs Comforted…
Job’s friends came to be simply there in his need. Perhaps they were ready to bring him a drink of water, a loaf of bread to encourage him to eat; maybe in our day, even a homemade casserole.
You are very privileged, if you are the one…if I am the one, who has the quiet task of simply, silently being there.
Some of us are there to run errands, do some shopping, take care of the kids, make phone calls, provide meals, and fix their car or their plumbing. It is a way of being with them without a word that’s the most important thing.
Being “tangible” in a time of need…
A neighbor and prayer partner with my wife, who in her mid 80’s, fell and broke her hip and was in therapy. She is an active widow who lives independently, even with her family nearby, even with her churches aid, Dianne wonder what she could do help. So she called Darda: “Darda, how can I help you?” Just a phone call was needed and Dianne started taking Darda to the grocery store, helping her reach for items off the shelf, then bringing her home.
Darda’s independence was never in jeopardy, for Dianne was being simply there for someone in need of comfort.
CONCLUSION FINDINGS–“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” ~ Author Unknown.
Job’s three friends went to sympathize with him and comfort him – BE THERE! Don’t wait for someone else to go!
Job’s friends began to weep aloud – If you’re not a “weeper, a crier”…[I am not, although as I get older…] JUST BE THERE!
They expressed their feelings tangibly–they sat with him “silently” for a long period of time because they saw how great his suffering was. This was no walk in the park for themselves. They suffered WITH Job!
We certainly can’t do all of these things for everyone that SUFFERS. But for loved ones, for very, very, close connections in our lives, when we can experience a great privilege of simply being with people in their most private and painful moments of life. We don’t want to be like the torrents of a spring brook, when the ground isn’t thirsty–when someone in their suffering is hoping to find refreshing water– but were bitterly disappointed because the brook had dried up.
We do not want those who we have come to comfort in their pain and suffering, to say as Job, “I have heard many such things; wearisome and miserable comforters are you all! (Job 16:2). Being there in SILENCE is sometimes the best medicine.
Dr. Craig Keener’s Commentary – Category: The Old Testament.
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