Job 12:1-6, Job 16:1-5
Here’s the scene. A person plops down in the middle of the room, obviously dejected, and the words that pour out of their mouth sound like a bad country/western tune. “My wife left me, my dog left me, my pickup truck broke down, I got fired from my job, and my heart is giving out.” What do you do?
Do you think to yourself, “Oh boy, I don’t have time for this kind of pain. This situation is going to suck me dry. If a person is in this much pain and misery, there must be a reason for it. Bad things like this just don’t happen to good people. This person probably deserves the pain they are suffering. If he would just confess and get right with God then we could all move on and spend time doing positive things.”
Wow! You are probably alone right now, having your quiet time. No one will know. Admit it. You’ve thought those thoughts before, haven’t you? We all have. No one likes pain. No one likes to see other people suffer. It makes us very uncomfortable.
Listen to some very stinging words of truth spoken by the very insightful, and suffering, Job. In 12:5 Job says, “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping” The Contemporary English Version puts it this way, “It’s easy to condemn those who are suffering, when you have no troubles.” In ch. 16 Job goes on to critique his “friends” who are trying “help” him in his time of need. He says, ”
I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
But my mouth would encourage you;
Underscore those words, “my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.”
Here is the lesson for today. When a person comes to you in a time of pain, guess what…THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO FIX IT!!!!!! What a person needs is a comforting presence. They need to know that there is a least one person in the world who cares enough to simply listen to them; to allow them the space to vent their pain and frustration and confusion without being condemned or accused. They are already feeling accused and condemned enough. Because of their pain, they are struggling with their understanding of God, the one foundation upon which they thought they were standing when times were good. With this foundation in question their entire world is falling apart and they cannot sense the presence of God’s arms around them. In that moment you need to BE God’s arms around them. You need to be the embodiment, the incarnation, of unconditional love that will smother them and allow them space to come out of the chaos. In that moment they don’t need a theological treatise on the sovereignty of God. They don’t need to hear Romans 8:28 shoved down their throat. They need to feel the physical presence of comfort. Sometimes the best thing to do, in that moment, is to simply close the mouth and open the arms. Let them cry and vent. God can handle it.
As a community of Christ that is trying to be a community that shepherds people and guides them into deeper places with God, we must come to grips with the fact that we will have tragedy in our midst. We will have hurting sheep. Loved ones will die, sometimes even children. Sickness will set in. Families may fall apart. Jobs will be lost. Let’s not be a church that shoots its wounded. Let’s not be Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar. Let’s be “God with skin on” for those who are hurting. Over time, through our acceptance of the person in their current state, their mind will clear, and, as Job will at the end of the book, we will have the opportunity to speak truth to them and get them on the right path again. Be patient, it will come.