September 16 I Thursday
2 Corinthians 9
“When Job’s three friends...heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him.” —Job 2:11
In our culture today, we have the idea that we always need to be happy. When someone we know is downcast, we feel the need to rush them back into feeling happy again. We tend to try and make it better instead of just letting that person share how they are really doing. Sometimes, sadness or anxiety is the best emotion to express the circumstances that we are experiencing. Throughout Scripture, we see the importance and permission to lament, especially in the book of Job, which contains some valuable lessons about how to come alongside someone who is struggling in life.
More than most others, Job suffered in his life. He experienced family loss when his children died suddenly. He experienced financial loss when a series of enemies maraud all of his wealth, and some natural disasters took everything from him. He experienced personal suffering as his health deteriorated when he had painful boils break out all over his body. When Job’s friends went to comfort him, Job 2:12-13 tells us, “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognise him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job’s friends were practicing a ministry of presence. When someone is suffering, that is all they need—someone to sit with them in the pain.
Job shared his honest and raw thoughts, emotions and prayers. Job’s friends sat, listened and wept alongside him, but then they decided to open their mouths and respond to what they were seeing and hearing. This is where they ruined it completely. For about thirty chapters, Job’s friends tried to solve Job’s pain, but only ended up amplifying it and misrepresenting God in the process.
The book of Job provides some valuable lessons for us. We tend to try and rush past our negative emotions rather than sitting with them and allowing them to wash over us. We should learn to sit in the pain of others, empathize with those who are suffering, as we trust in God to carry out His purifying work.
We would do well to remember that while everyone is going through the common storm of this pandemic, some of us might be going through this unaffected, others of us—like our own family members, friends or neighbours—are barely holding on. Part of life includes moments of sadness, anxiety and depression. It’s okay not to be okay.
Prayer: Lord God, help me to be a friend who can empathize with those who are suffering. May my presence in their life be a reflection of who You are to me. Thank You, Lord.