In many ways, the book of Job teaches us how to comfort those who are experiencing great suffering, specifically by NOT following the example of Job’s friends!
We read Zophar’s, “comfort” in Job 11, and it is filled with rude accusations that Job is foolish to claim he is blameless, and that if Job would just repent, his life would be all hunky-dory again. Humph.
On so many levels, Job’s friends say the most horrible things. They are judgmental of Job and presumptuous of God.
We don’t have the power of God to judge a man’s heart! We have no idea if the suffering is because of sin or not. And moreover, our sins have been forgiven!! Listen to what Frankie Bennett writes in her bible study on Job…
God may prune me (John 15:1-5), discipline me as His child (Hebrews 12:7-11), test me (Job 1-2), or have any number of other purposes for my trials, but I need never again wonder if my sufferings are His retribution for old sins or His condemnation of my failure to achieve perfection (Job, Lessons in Comfort, Frances Bennett, CEP, 2009, pg 46).
This is the gospel! That all of our sins have been forgiven! That Christ took the punishment we deserved and God’s wrath has been satisfied. It is finished. No more punishment. We are accepted!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is where comfort is found…in the grace of God. God’s comfort is deep and profound. It makes it way deep into our hearts and assures us that we are loved and accepted. In fact, his love is so vast that we need the Spirit’s help to understand it!! I’ve prayed Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 so many times… for myself and for others who need the strength of God’s comfort…
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Now that’s comfort! The kind of comfort that seeps into your bones and quenches your thirsty soul. That’s the power of truth, offered graciously in love.