Day 156: Silence is comfort (Job 5-14)

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

“My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God. You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom. Hear now my argument; listen to the plea of my lips. Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God? Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men? He would surely rebuke you if you secretly showed partiality. Would not his splendor terrify you? Would not the dread of him fall on you? Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay. “Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! – Job 13:1-16

Sometimes the best way to comfort someone is simply to listen.

Job went through an aggravating situation in chapters 5-14, adding to an already insurmountable, depressing situation of grief and despair. His friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite – that’s a mouthful! – were supposed to be there to comfort him, but instead, they spout off what they believe to be sound advice, making things even worse for Job in the process!

Job was in a dark place. There is no disputing that. Imagine your three best friends coming over and telling you everything that had happened was your fault, even though it wasn’t, and that there was some hidden sin that needed to be confessed in order to get right with God. How frustrating! Especially since Job was right about his sin in this situation. One can see the friends’ good intentions in trying to help Job out, but the thing Job needed most was for his friends to simply be there for him and listen! He didn’t need them yapping in his ear trying to guide him through it. He knew God, he knew His characteristics, he didn’t need his buddies telling him what to do next. He needed his friends to shut up and share in his grief.

I see this so many times today. The last thing someone wants to do when grief is fresh is talk about it. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just be physically there. Lend an ear when needed. The last thing is a rambling lecture on why God is doing what He is doing. Most of the time, it just makes the grief worse!

The worst part, in the case of Job’s friends, is that their spiritual advice was based on incorrect assumptions – that Job has done something to deserve his circumstances. It’s better to say nothing at all than to say something foolish.

It was tough to read some of Job’s thoughts as he dwelt for a while in his sadness, wishing that he was never born, wrapped in darkness, essentially comparing God to a bully toying with his playthings. He was coming dangerous close to crossing the line between grief and self-pity and self-righteousness. His emotions are raw, real and understandable for those who have gone through an emotional crisis like he had gone through. But it was even tougher to hear how his friends, especially Zophar, responded to his words. Zophar, unbelievably, came right out and told Job that he was hiding sin! The nerve! He was probably one of those people who always claim to have the answer to every one of life’s problems, the kind who just love to hear the sound of their own voice as they ramble on about their understanding of the world. Now I’m getting dangerously close to getting on a soapbox!

We have all gone through loss, and probably have known someone who has gone through it too. The next time it happens to a friend, don’t be like Job friends and make it worse. Be there, be quiet, listen, and offer sound Scriptural advice when asked. Silence and a listening ear is often the best medication for a friend’s broken heart.


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