Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake.
During my last year of seminary, I took a class called “Pastoral Counseling.”
I don’t know if it was an elective or a required class, but if it isn’t required it certainly should be!
This class taught us the rudiments of being a pastoral counselor. In many ways, we learned how much we truly don’t know.
And of all the things that I did learn in that class, one of the most important lessons was to never say, “I know how you feel.”
As a pastor, I have sat with mothers and fathers whose child has died. I do not know the pain of that kind of loss. So I could never say, “I know how you feel.”
I have sat with husbands whose wives have left them and moved in with their adulterous partner. Again, I could never say, “I know how you feel.”
That may seem obvious. But there is a great temptation to not only say that but to also try to give an explanation for why these kinds of things happen.
But the stark reality and truth is that there is no way I can readily explain why these things happen.
Why do some parents face the death of their child? Why do some couples choose adultery and divorce?
I don’t know how they feel and I don’t have the answer to why.
Yet still people come to me, “Pastor, can I talk to you?” “Pastor, can you help me through this?”
The best answer I can lead with is, “I can only imagine how you feel.” But even then I find that isn’t very helpful.
So in most cases I will just sit with the person and listen to them. I may read a portion of Scripture if there is one that can specifically bring comfort to the situation they are facing. And I will most certainly pray with them. Right there. Right then.
Eliphaz’s mistake – or, at least one of them – is that he thinks he knows why Job is suffering the way he is. His next mistake is to tell Job this. In no uncertain terms.
Job’s answer is multi-fold.
“I have done nothing wrong.” And in Job’s case, it is true. While still a sinner, Job hasn’t done anything specifically wrong that led to his children dying, his wealth drying up, and his health deteriorating.
“I wish I had never been born.” This is Job speaking in despair. I have found the only reply to this is to tell the person they are loved and just sit with them, be with them, and pray with them.
“Help me.” Job reaches out to his friends for help. He may be seeking answers on some level, but mostly I think Job is just asking his friends to be there for him.
When Jesus finally showed up in Bethany after his friend Lazarus died, he didn’t approach Mary and Martha with answers or reasons. He simple loved them and was with them.
There is a dialogue between Jesus and Martha – one that only Jesus can have.
But when both sisters were there at the graveside, all Jesus did as first was weep with them.
But then Jesus did only what Jesus could do – he raised Lazarus from the dead!
Job is not seeking miracles from his friends. He isn’t even seeking miracles from God – although that is what he will get … eventually!
Job is simply seeking comfort and togetherness.
That is what we must give to our friends. Not answers. Not reasons. Just love and comfort that we ourselves have through Jesus Christ.
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