Compassion Is What Our Fellow Believers Need
“But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!”
In Job chapters 4-7 the betrayal begins. We find his friend, Eliphaz, showing up and stating his accusation, “Job, you must have sin in your life because suffering is a sign that people are sinning.” He urged Job to go to God and find out what the sin was, so that he can get rid of the sin, “Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?” (Job 4:1, 2). I see a big problem with what Eliphaz assumes. Notice that he states, “We’ve all been talking about you and your situation.” What his friends should have been doing was praying or helping, but certainly not gossiping.
He goes on in Job 4:5, “But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.” Eliphaz says, “Now, I know you’ve had some problems lately that have been touching you.” He uses the same phrase as Satan in chapter 1 who stated to God, “…let me touch Job.” But it says something to me in that Eliphaz simply called Job’s calamity, “trouble.”
Job probably thought to himself, “Trouble? This is more than a little trouble…my life has been destroyed…everything I’ve held dear is gone. This is not a problem, it is a crushing blow to my entire life.” Eliphaz appears to make light of the situation and then if that wasn’t enough, in verse 7 he belts out a false doctrine. He is as sure of it as he can be, “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” (Job 4:7). Well, I can give you one innocent person that suffered, Christ! He speaks forth an “undeniable” theological truth, “good people never suffer.” Now, that sounds good, but there’s only one problem – it’s totally false! His erroneous words were essentially the misguided doctrine of positive confession. There are people still today that say, “All you have to do is name it and claim it and it will be yours. If you are sick it’s because there is sin in your life.”
The real facts however are that it is God himself that allows sickness and death. God is a sovereign God and He does what He wants. I can’t make God do anything. I can’t demand that the Holy One stop the universe, reach down and do for me all the things I would like.
Eliphaz thinks he has it all figured out. And then if that wasn’t enough he claims to have received a vision, “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof” (Job 4:12). Eliphaz states matter-of-factly, “I had a vision and I know that you’ve got sin in your life!” Oh, really? That’s amazing that you’ve got it all figured out Eliphaz, you’ve got a doctrine, you’ve had a vision and you’ve been discussing Job’s problem with people. It’s sad when we see people that treat others with such a lack of mercy.
In Job chapter 5, Eliphaz goes for the jugular vein. He’s going to get personal with Job. He’s going to talk about his family. What kind of a friend will find a man when he’s down and then talk about why he lost his children? In Job 5 he says, “Do you know why you lost your children? You are cursed because you have sin in your life!” Could you imagine a person saying that to someone who is grieving? “I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation” (Job 5:3). Here’s a man covered head to foot with sores, he has lost his money, he has lost every friend he ever had and he has even lost his children. What Job needed was prayer not picking.
In Chapter 6 and 7 we see the summary of Job’s response. It is simply this, “My suffering is what makes me want to die, not my sin.” Job was not a bitter man, but he spoke very clearly to his friends, “But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!” (Job 6:1). Job appeals to his friends to reconsider. He says in fact, “If you were really weighing the depth of my sorrows, you would not be thinking or talking like this.” Now, it’s true that Job speaks rather rashly, and I am not condoning that.
And I don’t think that any Bible commentary supports all that Job says, but what he goes on to say in chapter 6 is profound: “It’s easy for you to say these things as you’re healthy. You’re sitting there with a whole body and you’re telling me that I need to trust God more? You have your nice family and your good job, your bank account is positive and your tummy is full. But I have nothing. I am just sitting here wishing I could die and go to heaven. I wish you would weigh my situation more thoroughly. Do you realize what it’s really like to go through this?”
What Job is saying is that God’s people need to have empathy. Empathy is the ability to enter into the heart and feelings of another person. The Bible tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When a person’s heart is broken, sending a cheerful card that says, “Smile, God loves you” is not likely to help.
We live in a funny culture today where people don’t like to think about unpleasant things. The New York Times recently was called on the carpet for showing photographs of starving children in Africa on the front page. People complained that this was not appropriate for the front page. Why? It wasn’t that they were naked or something like that. No, it was not appropriate to them because it made them address the reality of starving people. We don’t like to deal with malnutrition when we’re drinking our $5 Starbucks coffees…it bothers us. We don’t like that. We don’t like to deal with issues like that.
In chapter 7 Job will turn his voice to God and will speak openly and very vividly. In verses 11 and 12, he in essence asks, “God, who am I?” I can see Job on his face before God, crying out and saying, “God, who am I? Am I a monster? Why are you doing this? Am I some kind of an evil monster?” He just couldn’t understand why he was in God’s crosshairs. And then in verse 20 and 21 we see Job’s great heart of humbleness, “I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?” (Job 7:20). My dear friend, everybody is having a tough day. Behind every smile is a broken heart. May God help us to humble ourselves, confess our faults and start reaching out to others like Job did.
It’s often hard to know what to say or do when someone you care about is grieving. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel even worse. Or maybe you think there’s little you can do to make things better. While you can’t take away the pain of the loss, you can provide much-needed comfort of Christ’s love and support. There are many ways – but often just small deeds of kindness are best.
The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. Often, you feel isolated and alone in your grief. Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Now, more than ever, your prayer and support is needed. You might not know exactly what to say or what to do. You don’t need to give a lot, if any, advice. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. Not smothering them of course…just caring and praying.