So… you have just lost a loved one and well meaning Christians rally around you and tell you not to cry – that it was God’s timing and you would meet again in heaven… Some would even go to the extent of making you feel guilty by saying that it’s wrong to cry at such times… You may have lost your job and people try to pacify you that it is God’s Will… And all you feel like doing at the time is screaming at them and pulling out your hair. In the midst of pain, it seems that people are gleefully taking hold of the opportunity to make them feel superior and spiritual… while making you feel condemned…
Job’s friends were not much different. Yes, the three started off on a good footing… They travelled to meet him at the time of his loss, they rallied around him and did not know what to say… So they just kept quiet and remained with him. “They sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). Job couldn’t bottle up his feelings any longer so after this he opened his mouth and started his first speech. Oops big mistake! It gave his friends the license to talk – and didn’t they?
One after the other, they began to justify Job’s suffering with their theology that what one sows will he reap. They acknowledge the good that Job has done but go on to find fault with him! Little did they know this suffering was a test inflicted on him by Satan. Little did they know that the LORD Himself had referred to Job as “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil”. In fact God commends him saying, “There is none like him on the earth” and also states that Job still holds fast to his integrity (Job 2:3).
A long story cut short, Job passes the agonising test not by scraping through, but with flying colours. Not only that, the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning (Job 42:4). However, guess who got the butt end of it all? The self righteous, condescending friends – who meant good and not harm – but nonetheless it was them that God rebuked. Eliphaz was told, “My wrath is against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has”… They were instructed to give God offerings while Job was asked to pray for them “lest I deal with you according to your folly” (Job 42:7).
Sadly most of us do not know how to speak to people in season. We start off well, but our human nature is to try to justify everything. In the process we judge and condemn. Worse of all, to do that we mishandle God’s Word and thus misrepresent God. See the rebuke that God had for the friends, “You have not spoken of Me what is right“. They judged based on their human wisdom – they did not know what was going on in the bigger picture, they didn’t know how God referred to Job… as they were basing their thoughts on what could be seen… in the natural. God however sees the hearts and not the appearances (what a relief for us, that God doesn’t judge us based on circumstances and false perceptions). He knows the whole story even better than we do!
Many Jews gathered around the women to comfort Mary and Martha concerning Lazarus. When Jesus saw Mary and the Jews who came with her weeping, Jesus groaned in the spirit and was trouble.. Later, Jesus wept. (John 11:33,35). What powerful words! He WEPT. Prior to meeting Mary, Jesus had already met Martha even before entering town and had told her that her brother will rise again (11:23). Is it wrong to weep in grief? Obviously not! The very Jesus who knew that Lazarus would rise again, still wept… His weeping caused the Jews to respond, “See how He loved him!”. Yes, those who believe in Jesus and who are led by the Spirit will indeed rise again – at least as spirit beings and live eternally in Heaven. Nonetheless, we can weep at the loss and allow God to comfort us!
God is the God of all comfort. He “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Where have you received comfort from in all your tribulation? Is it from your partner or from addictions to substances or perhaps even from addiction to work? Where have you digressed your hurts? Have you dealt with it? Most importantly have you received the comfort from the God of all comfort? Yes, it is okay to receive comfort from human beings too – as this verse does intend for us to comfort those in trouble.. Yet it makes it clear that it is only the comfort that we ourselves receive from God enables us to comfort others!
God is not in a hurry… He wants us to develop relationship with Him and with others… Receiving comfort from God facilitates intimacy with God. Comforting others develops bonding… though only if it’s with the comfort we have received from God.
When we haven’t personally experienced a particular tribulation or trouble that the other is experiencing, we tend to use empty words without sincere meaning. It takes one who has known poverty to comfort another going through poverty.
We need to be really careful when we offer comfort and counsel to people. Our words should not be formulated haphazardly, but rather, we need to be able to echo the words of Isaiah,
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary” (Isaiah 40:4).
We need to be yielded vessels for Him to awaken us morning my morning, to awaken our ears to hear as the learned, to let God open our ears (50:4-5).
Paul writes that we need to build each other up and not tear down. The difference between convicting and condemning, is the motive behind our words… Are we trying to sound superior / wise or perhaps spiritual or get a pat on the back? Or are we trying to look out for the other person’s interests? Do we sincerely have their best interests at heart?
Before we utter words of comfort or counsel, let us look to God in earnest desire of receiving from Him so that we know how we should speak a word in season to him who is weary.
Let us be comforters and not condemners… Let’s build up and not tear down… Let’s be led by the Holy Spirit every step of the way 🙂