Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 1: Thursday
Today’s reading is in the book of Job, chapters 1 and 2. When you read Job without having experienced lengthy suffering, you may read as if you’re looking through a window into someone else’s world. But when you read it in the midst of extensive and intense affliction, then you walk with Job through every word of faith and doubt, and every cry of pain.
The first two chapters set the scenario for the rest of the book. Job is introduced as a man who is “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” We learn of his wealth and his care for his family. Then we read of the dialogue between God and Satan—this dialogue sets the scenario for the rest of the dialogue that runs through the book: dialogue between Job and his friends, and later God initiating dialogue between Himself and Job.
If you have questions or want to talk about Job further in the comments or by contacting me, please do so. In these posts about my Bible reading, I may not write about something you’re thinking over. I’d be glad to try to discuss things further with you.
In chapter 1, Job lost his wealth and his family, except for his wife. In chapter 2, he loses his health, and being handicapped I will say I have felt the brunt of Satan’s challenge in 2:4, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.” Today I want to share my thoughts about the verses at the end of chapter 2. Even if you’ve never read Job, you may have heard of the term Job’s Comforters as a phrase used to describe those who don’t comfort, but acerbate suffering! But before they open their mouths and give Job more grief, look at what they did right.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.
“When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.
“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
When they heard of Job’s grief, “they came…to sympathize with him and comfort him.” They did not leave him alone; they cared about him; their intentions were to help him. Being left alone is absolutely horrible when you are suffering. I remember when I had my first ear operations and lost my hearing. I went to a church picnic after having been absent for about six weeks due to recovery time. I could not walk easily because of recurring dizzy spells, and that meant I couldn’t go and be with people—they had to come to where I was sitting. The problem was, I only had two or three come to me. I had been so lonely and was going through such difficult adjustments over my hearing loss, and I was largely ignored. Isolation and lack of interest by others is hard to handle—especially in a time of fear and doubt.
In Romans 12:15, Paul tells the Romans to “weep with those who weep.” Job’s friends did that. One commentator writes that, “The sight of Job’s disfigured countenance filled them with profound anguish.”1 They wept, tore their robes, threw dust on themselves, and sat down with him as he sat in the ashes (Job 2:8). They were in anguish! How often are we in anguish as we realize the extreme suffering of a friend?
When someone is walking through a valley of affliction and you are a friend, go and be with him. After a blow I had a few weeks ago, a friend emailed me and told me she was sitting in the ashes with me—a clear allusion to Job’s friends. She could not be with me in person, but she was with me with her words and prayers and emotion. It helps so much to know that someone is in anguish because you are in anguish—they realize and share your sufferings.
Job’s friends stayed with him. They didn’t make a one-time visit and leave. Those who are suffering can’t leave—they must wait and live it out. You are able to leave the situation, but they can’t. You can help them by staying with them through regular visits or calls or emails. There may be physical or material help you can give, but don’t let that substitute for emotional and spiritual help. I think it can sometimes be easier to give physical help because then you can leave, having felt you have done your duty! Don’t leave! There have been numerous studies about the destructive effects of solitude and the alleviating effects of relationships. It can be hard to ask for help, especially if you’ve met with the passive rejection of a polite excuse or even active rejection. Think and pray and ask God for wisdom about what the person needs, rather than giving what you think the other needs. People don’t talk much today about prayer partners, but consider asking someone you know who might need one to meet with you once a week to pray. Meet, listen and pray.
Those who are not going through a difficult time can give so much help to those who are, yet far too often in the church those who reach out and care about those suffering are either ones who have suffered or ones who are suffering. We are to look out for the interests of others. One summer I was doing a women’s Bible study on suffering, and only one woman attended who was not going through affliction. I was glad to be with those who were there, but it would have helped a great deal if love and care had been shown by those who were blessed at that moment with stable circumstances (often they are those who have needed resources to help). We had women share extreme needs; I think I had us sing together, we studied the Bible together and we prayed together. We saw God answer many prayers that summer. It was rather strange, but at the very last meeting, after not having a single wife of an elder or deacon attend, several showed up. They seemed surprised to hear of the answers to prayer that God had given us.
Be aware of what others are going through, and stay with them. My friend, Lisa, stayed with me through one of my most difficult ‘skin for skin’ periods. She came week after week to sit with me.
When they came and sat, Job’s friends didn’t say a word, “for they saw that his pain was very great.” You don’t have to know what to say, for when you come, when you weep and when you stay with someone in ashes, you have spoken profound love eloquently.
Towards the end of his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is the law of Christ?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Come, weep, stay.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 424.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter