October 25: comforter

“You are miserable comforters, all of you!” The first five verses of Job 16 say a lot about what not to do and what to do in the presence of someone who is suffering. Job’s friends have been increasing his misery rather than bringing comfort. They come to Job and ask what’s wrong which only provokes arguments about why he must be suffering. None of this provides comfort. They should not need to ask. What’s wrong physically is obvious just by looking at him. What’s wrong emotionally is what he has been trying to say. They refuse to see and hear him as he really is, and this is what makes them miserable comforters.

Job’s suffering has taught him how his own efforts in the past to comfort others have not been helpful. He could be as miserable a comforter to others as they have been to him. “But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” (Job 16:5) He has learned through his own experience to be a comforter.

An important lesson for us when we reach out to someone who suffers. Often the best thing to say is nothing at all.

As I read Acts 23, it is interesting to note that in Paul’s time of crisis: “the Lord stood near Paul and said ‘Take courage!'” No long explanations. No arguments about why Paul must be in a time of need. Simply this: the Lord stood near – Take courage!

Perhaps we, too, will see and hear when we get quiet and listen.

Today’s readings: Job 16; Acts 21-23

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