Even well intentioned friends can say the wrong things to someone suffering. We can learn from the beginning conversation between Job and his friends. How often when someone is suffering from something do we try to make sense of why God did it and try to apply truth or meaning to the situation when we really have no clue why it’s happening? (Is finding meaning to give us peace of mind or our friend who is suffering?) Or do we give unsolicited advice about what our friend should do (how to fix it) even though we really have no understanding to speak to context of why it is happening? Or do we judge them for why it is happening to them in our response? Do we simply not listen to our friends cry and empathize with, affirm them leaving them to feel unheard and misunderstood?
A friend judges Job’s reverence for God saying he encouraged others when they were weak but when trouble comes on him he loses heart and becomes terrified. Then he asks him, “Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope? Do innocent men die?” Probably not what Job wants to hear when he just stated he never wanted to be born. Another friend judges him for being corrected and to not despise God’s discipline. But we know God said of Job in 2:3, “He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.” So, we know he’s not being disciplined. His friend also gives him advice to go to God because God “protects those who suffer”, but we know God sanctioned Satan to do all of this suffering in the first place so he’s not going to “frustrate the plans of the schemer.”
In Job’s response to them after they speak, it’s obvious he feels unheard, judged, criticized and unsupported by his friends who aren’t even trying to understand from his point of view.
“At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth.
“Let the day of my birth be erased, and the night I was conceived.
Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties? -Job 3:23 NLT
What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.” -Job 3:1, 3, 23, 25-26 NLT
““In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak.
But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope? “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed?” -Job 4:3, 5-7 NLT
“If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles. He gives rain for the earth and water for the fields. He gives prosperity to the poor and protects those who suffer. He frustrates the plans of schemers so the work of their hands will not succeed.” -Job 5:8-12 NLT
“But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.
He will save you from death in time of famine, from the power of the sword in time of war.” -Job 5:17, 20 NLT
“One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty. My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.” -Job 6:14-16 NLT
“Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?
Look at me! Would I lie to your face? Stop assuming my guilt, for I have done no wrong. Do you think I am lying? Don’t I know the difference between right and wrong?” -Job 6:25-26, 28-30 NLT