How Not To Comfort People

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JOB 16:1-5 CEV-EN

Job said:
   I have often heard this,
and it offers no comfort.
   So why don’t you keep quiet?
What’s bothering you?
   If I were in your place,
it would be easy to criticize
or to give advice.
   But I would offer hope
and comfort instead.

Job is a guy who had it tough. Life is awesome, and then everything he has is taken away. All his stuff is stolen and burned. His kids all die. His wealth is taken. And then his health fails, in the form of sores and boils. Life goes from great to “just let me die”.

And then, his friends show up. And they tell him how bad a person he must be to earn all of this pain and suffering. Nice friends. These must be the guys that inspired the saying, “with friends like these…”

And here, after a few rants and exchanges with his friends, he calls them out. He gets it. He sees how easy it is for them to give advice and try to fix it for him. He knows that if he were on the other side of this, it would be easy to criticize and blame the situation on the person.

This is what guys do. We “fix” things. We tell each other how to do it better. I’ve made that mistake in my marriage, try to fix the problem my wife brings to me. But most of the time, she wants someone (specifically me) to listen and empathize with her.

This is what Job needs: for his friends to empathize and offer comfort and hope. Whether he is right or wrong, he needs his friends to help lift him up.

We, the readers, have the benefit of knowing the backstory. God allowed Job to be tempted with these calamities only because he was so righteous and devoted to God. But even if we don’t know the story, the more righteous way to handle this would be to offer comfort and support.

I need to be reminded of this. I need to hear that offering comfort, support, an open ear, love; this is the way to reach someone who is suffering, whether they have brought it on themselves or not. Because even if they “deserve” their circumstance, or have caused it, love and support will not only help them, but it’s more likely to open a door to God moving in their life.

And that is what we are here for, to spread the good news that there is hope.

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