Words For The Wind

Job 3 contains Job’s absolutely gut-wrenching lament. Losses and suffering have piled upon him until his heart splits and sorrow and anguish flow out from him in words of despair. Eliphaz is the first of Job’s friends to reply. E. S. P. Heavenor comments on his words:

…while Eliphaz is the most sympathetic of Job’s physicians, he is still a physician who fails. There is no acknowledgment of the extraordinary submission to God Job has already shown (e.g. in 1:21 and 2:10). There is no clear word of sympathy in all his words. Strahan refers to him as ‘a theologian chilled by his creed’. He resembles a commander urging soldiers who have been exhausted by struggling against fearful odds to still more resolute endeavor, without a word of praise of what has already been accomplished.1

Job’s reply to Eliphaz in chapter 6 includes this protest:

“Do you intend to reprove my words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?”
Job 6:26

E. S. P. Heavenor writes:

His friends have made the mistake of dealing with the wild, whirling speeches of a desperate man as if every word was cool and calculated.2

Wait before you rebuke. Pray before you pushback. Is that what is needed? What will, in reality, help the one to whom you listen? It is so important to ask God for wisdom regarding the section of His Word that would build up, restore, clear and correct the ‘fog of war’ of suffering. Do not speak in cliches or tidy formulas. Consider the person, discern the needed truth and learn to advise and apply with the meekness of godly wisdom from a heart and mind of love for God and love for the one who is suffering. Sometimes what is needed most is your presence as you listen, your hugs as someone cries, and your silence to hear a heart break.

It can be a difficult task to learn to listen and discern whether or not we are hearing words for the wind. Love for the one to whom you listen, and humility and love for the living God are foundational. Uphold God’s truth and honor God with your words, and know that that includes understanding His compassion and love for the one who suffers. Our own suffering and knowledge of our own weakness and dependence on God’s grace help us to do this. You have to get to know someone, listen with love and pray with intensity. You have to be willing to go into someone’s valley and walk together, lending an arm over the rough rocks in the dark.

Be willing to make mistakes. It’s hard to discern and sort through words of despair and words of rebellion. It’s hard to discern when is the time to speak and when is the time to be silent. It’s hard to know what to say that will help and restore. When, not if, you blunder, stay—don’t leave. Keep trying. Ask God for help. Don’t give up on someone and walk away because you feel your own inadequacies. That’s the point. Sometimes life is so messy and scrambled that we are completely inadequate to understand circumstances and speak to the whys. We have to place our lives in God’s hands, and the greatest thing you can do to help someone trust God in the storm is to weather that storm with her.

Listen with love for God and for the one who is speaking. Listen with prayer, asking God for the wisdom not to break the battered reed. Let words of despair go with the wind, and with love, give words of care and consolation.

The Yorkshire Dales: FreeFoto.com
1, 2E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, third ed., D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, London 1970) 425–426, 426.

This page is a revision of one of my earliest posts. That post of the same title, Words For The Wind, was inspired by John Piper’s brief encouragement written over 20 years ago, When Words Are Wind.

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