Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. — Job 16:1-2
A while back, I read about a missionary who was translating the Scriptures for a remote tribe in the mountains of Mexico. At one point he found himself struggling to translate our English word “comfort.” One day his helper asked for a week’s leave, explaining that his uncle had died. He wanted some days off to visit his bereaved aunt, “to help her heart around the corner.” That was just the expression the missionary needed. What a picturesque way to describe comfort!
While we will never experience the dire set of circumstances that caused Job’s suffering, we probably will find ourselves in need of comfort at some point in life. Circumstances which cause physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional pain are a universal reality.
Most likely we will also try at some point to comfort a friend or acquaintance who is hurting. In those times, let us attempt to be better comforters than Job’s “friends” were! The dictionary indicates that the word comfort means “to give strength and hope; to soothe in distress; to ease misery or grief.” Clearly, Job was right when he called the three men who visited him “miserable comforters.” They not only failed to offer strength and hope, but they actually added to Job’s misery by turning against him and harshly accusing him of causing his own suffering.
When we attempt to console others, we should be careful never to criticize how the sufferer is handling adversity. It may be helpful to remember that people who are hurting often experience feelings of shock, denial, bewilderment, confusion, guilt, anger, or depression. Those emotions may manifest themselves in a wide variety of ways.
Generally, it is best not to attempt to suggest any reason for the suffering. We do not know why people suffer — only God sees behind the scenes and understands fully why He allows what He allows. As we see by the example of Job’s comforters, things are not always as they appear to us.
The best comforters are usually people who have experienced a similar sorrow. If we have not gone through what the person we are attempting to comfort is experiencing, our understanding is limited. Still, we can try to put ourselves in the sufferer’s place and offer genuine solace, encouragement, and prayers. We can encourage him or her to have confidence that God is working out His perfect plan through the circumstances of life. When the suffering focus on that, a blessed glimmer of hope will appear on the horizon, and they will find in Him the strength to carry on.
How do you want others to comfort you in your time of need? Do your best to offer exactly the same kind of compassionate support to others!
In chapters 4-14, Job and his friends had engaged in a cycle of discussion in which each of the three men individually addressed Job, and then Job responded. Today’s text begins the second cycle of discussions.
In chapter 15, Eliphaz, the friend who spoke first in the previous dialog, once again took the lead in addressing the suffering man. Although Eliphaz basically repeated his earlier assertions, the tone of this second speech is sharper and more intense. He attacked Job’s wisdom and condemned him as a hypocrite, maintaining adamantly that Job brought his awful circumstances upon himself because of his sinfulness. Eliphaz concluded his verbal attack by giving a description of the fate of the wicked, perhaps with the hope of stirring Job to confession and repentance.
Chapter 16 begins Job’s response to Eliphaz. Job revealed his deep hurt and anger at his friends’ accusations. He described with contempt their efforts to comfort him, and expressed that he felt they had turned him over to the hands of the wicked. To add to his grief, he felt God had forsaken him, so he seemingly abandoned any hope of vindication. He began to dwell on death, seeing it as an end to his pain and grief.
In chapter 17, Job lamented the fact that his neighbors and friends had turned against him. He appealed directly to God to vouch for him and to confound his friends for their attacks against his integrity. Then he again addressed the men before him, bemoaning his pitiful state and expressing his fear that all hope for righting this wrong would go to the grave with him.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The solution of Job’s three friends
C. The second cycle of speeches
1. Eliphaz’s advice (15:1-35)
a. Job’s guilt assessed (15:1-6)
b. The reason stated (15:7-16)
c. Job challenged to repent (15:17-35)
2. Job’s answer (16:1 — 17:16)
a. The description of his friends’ advice (16:1-5)
b. The source of Job’s affliction (16:6-17)
c. The desire for God’s help (16:18 — 17:5)
d. The sorrow of Job for his state (17:6-16)
In times of extreme suffering and grief, God’s loving presence is often communicated through ordinary people who minister with grace and compassion. Let us be among those who do that!