When Job’s three friends heard of his great tragedy they did three things that were very supportive and helpful. First, they “made an appointment together to come and mourn with him and to comfort him” (2:11 NKJV). Then they “wept” with him (2:12). They didn’t try to cheer him up, but instead entered into his sorrow in the customary ways of their day. Finally, they stayed with him, without saying a word, for seven whole days, “for they saw that his grief was very great” (2:13).
But later we read that Job called his three friends “miserable comforters” (16:2). What did they do that made him react this way?
First, without really being able to enter into the depth of his suffering, they nevertheless tried to give Job advice: “As for me, I would seek God” (Job 5:8). Such statements greatly oversimplified the situation. What Job heard them saying was “Do this and it’ll be OK.” The reality of his suffering was far deeper than any quick fixes and superficial solutions they could recommend.
Second, they quoted Scripture to him: “Happy is the man whom God corrects … do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; Ps. 94:12; Prov. 3:11-12). While quoting Scripture is good, what we choose to quote may be inappropriate and hurtful. My guess is that Job was thinking, “My head already knows these things. It’s my heart that’s struggling. Don’t lecture me! Just quietly support me in my struggle.”
Third, they implied wrongdoing by saying that if Job “were pure and upright” God would take away his pain (8:6). Whether we realize it or not, when we say such things, we accuse the sufferer of bringing about his suffering. Instead of advising Job, they should have just kept on weeping with him (Rom. 12:15).
While Job’s friends started well, they ended up as “miserable comforters.” Let’s learn from them, and do what they did that helped their suffering friend while avoiding what brought him further pain.
By Larry Ondrejack
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org