August 27, 2007
But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief. Job 15:15 (NLT)
When people endure tremendous suffering, Job’s experiences are often read, examined and discussed. The Bible clearly displays for us how Job endured multiple sorrows. He lost his children, wealth and health. Although he had been a man of great fortune, suddenly he became a person to be pitied or scorned. His tragedies had an immediate onset, occurring within hours and days of one another.
Illness and loss often cause people to examine themselves and to ask what they have done to deserve their current situations. It is not unusual for friends and family to be consulted. Job sought advice from his friends.
When I read the discourse between Job and these men, I question whether or not they were really friends. They seem intent upon “blaming the victim.” Job’s friends insist that he has sinned, causing his life to be struck by calamity and sorrow. Job does not accept their blame.
To watch someone’s suffering can evoke fear within us. It might cause us to consider that this very thing could happen to us. No one wants to encounter a personal disaster or to be reminded of the suffering experienced when a family member dies. We want to retreat from the pain, but true friends don’t run when life gets tough.
Have you ever noticed that at times a person does not want to be encouraged? He or she wants to be heard, just as Job wanted to be heard. One of the most comforting things we can do is to listen to our friend and to withhold judgment. We can pray that God’s Spirit will provide encouragement to all who are concerned in the situation. When the timing is right, we can speak words of support.
It is not easy to stay close to someone who is experiencing pain, yet God’s grace is sufficient. He will help us with our own grief, too. God understands suffering. He watched as Jesus bore our pain and sin. He has not forgotten about those who suffer, and he wants us to remember them too. Don’t be afraid to be an extension of God’s hand of mercy. He will help you when you reach out to others.
Have you read With Great Mercy?