5/16/18 “Comforting the Fainthearted” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 15-17)


“Then Job answered and said: ‘I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you and shake my head at you; But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief’” (Job 16:1-5).

Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had come to see Job for the purposes of mourning with him and to comfort him (Job 2:11). For the first seven days following their arrival they did a good job of this as they wept with him and did not speak a word (Job 2:12-13). However, after Job opened his mouth and began to express his confusion as to why this was happening to him and complain wishing he had never been born (Job 3:1-26), each of his friends in order made the mistake of trying to place themselves in God’s shoes and explain to Job why this was happening to him.

God’s shoes were much too big for them to fill and their understanding of what was happening to Job was incorrect. They thought what was happening to Job was because of his own sin, when, in fact, these things were happening because of Satan’s attempts to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar believed the loss of Job’s possessions, his children, and his health were a reflection God was displeased with Job and was chastening him. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was not upset at Job. God’s view of Job was “…there is no like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As he begins his second round of his futile effort to explain to Job what was happening to him, Eliphaz, in his frustration with Job’s unwillingness to agree with him, begins to attack Job personally: “Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty” (Job 15:4-5). He then accuses Job of acting defiantly and stubbornly resisting God (Job 15:20, 25-26). Though he had initially come to mourn with and to comfort Job, Eliphaz now finds himself attacking and accusing his friend of being a wicked man!

No wonder, as the opening verses above show, Job describes his friends as being “miserable comforters”. They have made Job feel worse, not better. Job describes his broken heart: “"My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me” (Job 17:1). Job was not looking for friends to flatter him: “He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail” (Job 17:5); but his friends judging him added to his misery: “My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God” (Job 16:20). He desired to have friends who would support him through his hour of trial: “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21).  

Those who are going through pain and heartache need our love, support, and encouragement. During these times of agony, planting thoughts of God’s possible judgment on them will only create more pain. As they go through such trials they need to be reminded of God’s love for them. No wonder the apostle Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). A great way of supporting our loved ones during hard times is to simply weep with them. Today, I will strive to not speak words of God’s possible judgment upon those who are suffering, but only words of encouragement as I seek to support them in their hour of trial!

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).