|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
1-10 roughly cover Ch.1-4
11-20 roughly cover Ch.4-7
21-30 roughly cover Ch.8-11
31-40 roughly cover Ch.12-15
41-50 roughly cover Ch.16-21
51-60 cover Ch.22-33
61-68 cover Ch.34-42
Meditation No. 41
Meditation Title: False Comforters
Job 16:2 I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all!
Comfort, in modern usage, is normally about having nice things in our homes. We don't tend to speak about comforting another unless it is in respect of a small child, yet the Holy Spirit is referred to by Jesus as the Comforter in older versions, or the Counsellor in more modern versions, for a counsellor is simply someone who brings comfort. The psalmist wrote, “May your unfailing love be my comfort,” (Psa 119:76). Knowing the God is a God of love and that all He does for us is an expression of His love, is a comfort to us. We need comforting when we are in worrying or difficult circumstances, and in a fallen world, that is quite often! Here is Job sitting in total misery (if you have forgotten, go back and read his earlier anguish in chapter 3) and in dire need of comfort. We have travelled this path before but it bears treading again. When you are in such a place what is it you want? Comfort! Well, yes, but what does that really mean? You want understanding acceptance, you want your friend to lift and encourage you with words that help. The last thing you want is words that condemn or judge, but that is what Job has been receiving!
Thus now as he responds to Eliphaz's last outpouring, his first response is not to reply to the judgement but to express what he feels about these three ‘friends'. (We sometimes say, “With friends like that, who needs enemies!”) What does he call them? Miserable comforters! That's right, go for it, Job, you tell them! He's been waiting for a simple word of encouragement and all he has received from them have been long rambling tirades! “Will your long-winded speeches never end?” (v.3a). He despairs that they seem to go on and on. He wonders what is wrong with them: “What ails you that you keep on arguing?” (v.3b). It's like he says, “What is it with you guys that you just have to keep on and on at me. Why can't you stop?”
But then he thinks what it would be like if the boot were on the other foot, if it were him in their position and they were in his: “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.” (v.4). Yes, anyone can make fine sounding words when they are feeling fit, healthy and secure; that is easy! But, he goes on, I wouldn't do that to you! “But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” (v.5). I wouldn't want to just go on at you; I would want to encourage, comfort and somehow bring you some relief if I could.
This little passage thus challenges us once again on the sort of people we are. I Have noticed that there are some people who just want to be strengthened and confirmed in their state of discouragement, and so they go and find others who they know are the same and the two of them groan together about how bad the world is, and go away conformed in their belief that life is bad and people are nasty and as for God….! Those sort of people, it seems don't want to be lifted and encouraged because if they were it would mean that they would have to take responsibility for their lives and for others around them, and they don't want that.
But there are others who simply have low self-esteem because of the hard knocks of life, and although it may be a long, slow process, they are willing to receive gentle uplifting when it is given. But there comes the challenge, are we willing to be those who will bring such gentle and gradual uplift? Bringing encouragement to others requires persistence because their state means it is difficult for them to be lifted, and so that gentle understanding acceptance that we have spoken of, needs to come with a consistence that proved to our friend that it is not an artificial quick fix approach. No, our friend who needs lifting, wants to know that our care is genuine and that it won't only come in one minute bursts. I knew someone who seemed to express care almost ‘professionally'. You were left feeling that they said what they said because it was their duty, and they would rather not have to do it, if only you would get yourself sorted out! Indeed as soon asd hey left you they were off on the next quest and you were forgotten.
That's not what someone who needs lifting wants. They want to know that they are important to you, not just when you are before them but all the time. Paul was staggeringly good at this: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Eph 1:15,16) Wow! They were on his mind all the time! No, when we comfort another, part of that comfort comes in the knowledge that they are important to us. I have a terrible memory but I am aware that remembering people's names is important. In a large church this is especially difficult but at least with just a relatively small number, surely we can show our care by remembering people's names – and the things they shared with us when we last spoke. Little things perhaps, but they help people feel you care – and you do if you work on it. Soon you will find you are thinking about them, praying for them and wondering how they are getting on. It is something to be learned and something to be worked on, but if we do we will avoid being like Job's comforters, who merely pulled him down further.
Why not set yourself a task to focus on a small number of people who you know struggle with life and who just need loving acceptance, and work at giving it to them. This won't be a short term project so don't embark on it lightly, but if you settle in for he long haul, you may find yourself helping a number of lives to be transformed in a significant and meaningful way.