Eliphaz’s 1, 2, 3 punch in chapter 14 was full of sting, and Job’s immediate response is: “miserable comforters are you all.” (Job 16:2b) He’s hurt. And it shows. You or I would feel the same. Despite his attempts to tell his friends that he is NOT trying to justify himself in the absolute sense, they can’t see it any other way. And he is staggering from the repeated “below the belt” blows.
Nevertheless, Job is not one to just give up and die, even though he bemoans his ever having been given life. Right now, everything is pain. But he still clings to seeking an answer for it all. It doesn’t make sense to him yet and he is going to stick it out until it does. He thinks. In the end, he will still not get the answer he is seeking. But he will receive a much more stabilizing, enlightening, satisfying and restorative answer. Being used by God to address us in all of our questions about suffering Job plods on. Lifting us up outside of ourselves, will be the only relief. But when we hurt, self eclipses everything else. Even God.
Once again, Job’s response covers two chapters (16-17) to his Comforter’s 1. And this time he addresses their tactics as well as the issue at hand. It holds fruitful lessons for how not to touch the wounds of one in such deep grief. It is a study in learning tenderness – even if and when correction is needed. Even if Job had sinned as they imagined – oh that they had the Spirit’s Word before them: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1) Alas, such a gentle approach is so often very far from us.
16:1-5 / If I were you in your place, I could be just as cruel with my words. Or – I could try to help you.
16:6-17 / Saying what I really feel, or keeping silent makes no impact on my pain either way, so I may as well speak truthfully – I tell you God is behind this, and it is NOT due to some particular sin!
16:18-17:2 / I am in utter anguish on every side. God is against me, and men are against me. I have no champion, no friend.
17:3-5 / Prayer: God! Do something! These comforters of mine are unjust in their attack on me! STOP THEM!
17:6-16 / No matter what you say or do my friends, I grow more confirmed in my opinion on this. And I won’t just give up and die and vindicate you in the process.
Even though it is God who has done this, yet, I know that I have a defender in Heaven. I will not give up even in this. There is still hope, even though I do not understand. Sorry men, you still haven’t got it. Try again.
Heavenly Father, teach me the holy skill of genuine comfort. Let my lips be the means of mercy triumphing over judgment (James 2:13). Let me hear first, and speak very cautiously second. Let me point men more to Christ than to their own sin. Let me not berate the traveler for exposing himself to a road filled with thieves and robbers, but instead pour the oil and the wine into the wounds of the one ravaged by life in this post-Genesis 3 world. Fill me with compassion. The same compassion Christ has had on my own soul in my sufferings, irrespective of their cause.