The book of Job is a story about a real man, in a real place, with real suffering that touched every area of his life. Although this story was written long ago, the same is true for people today. In the first chapter we find several things out about Job. Things such where he lived, what he had, financial holdings, status, and family information. However, Job’s life changed in a day when God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job. There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). In a nutshell, Satan’s response to God was sure Job loved him because of what he could get. Satan said if that all goes away, so will your servant Job.
Did Job know anything of this conversation between Satan and God? While it is recorded for us, it is not explained to Job. In one day, Job lost everything life could offer; his children, wealth, status, yet held to God. So, another day Satan took the last thing left, other than his life. Satan took Job’s health with painful sores everywhere. Even Job’s wife could not stand to see this great suffering. Job didn’t think he could stand it nor understand it.
Just when you think things can’t get worse, it does for Job. Job has three friends by the name of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. These three had heard of what had happened to Job so “they met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). When they saw Job, he was so unrecognizable and suffering so greatly, these friends wept, tore their clothes, and sprinkled dust on their head. They stayed with him for seven days without a word. Job needed a friend, and they were there. In fact, that was the most comforting thing they did for Job.
When Job finally spoke after seven days, he pours out his overwhelming despair, bitterness of spirit so deep he wishes he had never been born. So shocking was this to Job’s friends, they forgot their purpose was to comfort. One by one, these friends instead tried to straighten out Job’s theology. Eliphaz started the discourse. He asked Job “Where were the upright ever destroyed? In other words, Job you missed the mark. Continuing, Eliphaz said it was his observation that “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” (4:8-9) Job, you are getting what you deserve. Bildad said to Job that if you were upright God would have vindicated you and that has not happened. Zophar accuses Job of self-righteousness, stubbornness and deserved to suffer even more than he had already (11:6). Does that sound like comforters to you? Job and God didn’t think so either and told them so.
There are things that happen in life, that we cannot explain or understand. Comforters don’t need an answer to love, encourage and be present. Most of the time, words would not change the circumstance anyway, but being there does. The comforters are a support, not an instructor. A comforter ultimately focuses them on the One that can change everything. Job shows us a sterling example, in spite of his comforters, choosing to battle through suffering without understanding by holding on to the day that he would see his redeemer face to face.
Pastor Ruth Kaunley