A friend in need? The story of Job and his comforters
The phrase Job’s comforters has worked its way into everyday language and is used to refer to people who provide not so much as comfort in times in need but more a brutally honest appraisal of the situation which can actually exacerbate feelings of despair rather than alleviate them!
The story of Job is recounted in the Old Testament and it has to be said poor old Job certainly does have to go through some mighty challenges!
We learn that this prosperous and well respected man, who appears to have it all, is left bereft following the deaths of his beloved children and the loss of all his property and stock. He is afflicted by painful skin diseases but despite his misery he clings to his faith in God, unlike his scornful wife!
And what of his friends? Well when they first turn up all they do is weep and sit on the ground. No words of comfort or reassurance so they offer, just their presence alongside him. And when they do eventually speak it is to deliver long and complicated monologues questioning the depth of Job’s faith. This is certainly no straightforward account of one man’s struggle with life but rather a complex theological discourse on the nature of God’s justice in the light of human suffering – not exactly light reading for a summer’s day! But it is a topic that often comes up whenever we become aware of the plight of someone we know to be godly but who seems to have more than their fair share of life’s challenges. We all know people who are kind, helpful, thoughtful, all of the things which make them a blessing to know but who seem to have to deal with so many difficult issues. Equally I bet we can all name a t least one person who is exactly the opposite yet seems to sail through life without a care in the world. It just doesn’t seem fair does it? How can God allow such injustice?
We may have found ourselves asking this question even more over the past few months. Why has God allowed the suffering that the pandemic has brought to the world? Why have so many blameless people died as a result? Why have those who have been at the forefront of caring for others lost their own lives in doing so? How I wish I had the answers to such questions! But of course I don’t because it is not for any of us to question God. Instead we need to put our trust in Him just as Job did. That doesn’t mean being passive and just letting the bad stuff happen though.
We are not called to be “Job’s comforters”, proclaiming that what is happening in the world is the fault of others, or that God has abandoned HIs people or that we can do nothing in the face of such misery.
We are called to be people of hope, of prayer and of radical love. We are called to do all we can to alleviate the suffering of others in whatever we can. We are called to offer words of comfort, practical help and a reassuring presence. We are called to be a blessing and to draw others into God’s family.
And what of Job? Did God abandon him? No, of course not! Job prayed to the Lord and he was blessed, living a long and fulfilled life.
Too much of a cliched happy ending? Well maybe, but the story of Job and his friends reminds us that we need not only to be there for our friends, we need to respond to their challenges by helping them get through tough times both practically and prayerfully, firm in our faith in God’s goodness and mercy and thankful for HIs presence at all times.