Strengthening OTHERS with our ‘WORDS OF COMFORT’: "I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; but I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief." (Job 16:4-5)
When the three friends of Job heard about his adversity they made an appointment together to come from their homes and mourn for him and comfort him (Job 2:11). When they came near to Job, they could not even recognize him as his whole body was covered with boils (2:12a). Unable to contain their grief, they wept loudly, tore their clothes in anguish and sprinkled dust on their own heads as an outward sign of intense grief (2:12b). Then they sat down on the ground with Job for seven days and nights without speaking a word of comfort as they understood that his grief was very great (2:13).
However, after those seven days when the conversations started, instead of comforting Job and empathizing with him, they pelted him repeatedly with hurtful words. Eliphaz started first says that all this had happened since Job had sinned and he was being chastened by God (chapters 4-5). Bildad continued asserting that Job should repent (chapter 8), and this cue was repeated by Zophar who urged Job to repent (chapter 11). When Job started to justify himself, Eliphaz went up to the next critical level and started accusing Job of foolishness as he was trying to justify himself rather than admit his own sins (chapter 15).
To all the previous allegations Job simply responded, in essence, “I’ve heard it all before. You are all worthless comforters” (16:2). If they were in his place, he would at least try to ‘comfort’ them! He doesn’t really want their pity, but rather that they share his righteous indignation that an injustice has been done. In effect, Job is saying: “Please nod your head with understanding instead of mocking and ridiculing me”. Job has grown weary, not of the length of their speeches, but of their failure to say anything helpful.
Job’s three friends were indeed “miserable comforters”. They only added to his pain. If the situation were reversed, Job would have spoken words of strength and help to them in their suffering. Their words wore him out and made him shrivel up, as when a desert wind blows. In the similar manner, we all have a tendency to jump to hasty conclusions based on only partial evidence and accuse people of wrong doing instead of stepping back and analyzing the situation. Let us ask ourselves: Is God using my words to bring comfort to others in their grief?
Let us always remember that "a wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit" (Prov 15:4). Unlike Job’s friends who aggravated the crisis through their scathing remarks, let us bear others burdens by empathizing with them and comforting them through our words. This is what God requires from our lives as well.