Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BEWARE: Comforting can be Harmful!

My daily adventure has taken me through the lives of the Kings of Israel to Esther's life (after the Babylonian captivity) and now to Job. Job, I think is one of the most poetic books in the bible. It contains a string of lyrical dialogues between Job and his three friends. And it would need a bit of diligent study and the Holy Spirit's guidance to uncover what our Father would like to reveal through this magnificent book.

The book opens with a scene in Heaven as Satan approached God. He has this job of testing the people on earth, to see if they would renounce their faith in God or not. (Note: there really is a spiritual warfare until now!) God suggested that Satan test Job. Job was an upright and blameless man in the land of Uz. The terms stipulated that Satan can strike anything and everything except Job himself.

Satan then killed all Job's servants (except 1) with sword, burnt all his sheep, took away his camels and donkeys, and struck all his sons and daughter dead. This is probably worse than any person's nightmare on earth.

Here was Job's response (1:21) :
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

Imagine, he lost all his possessions and the people that he loved the most! Well probably except for his wife who loathed him. He was left with three mocking friends, and a couple of disrespectful servants who reported the tragedies to him and yes, his spiteful wife.

Satan, not contented with his work, spoke to God again. He said the right test of Job's faith would be to incur him pain, but he would still spare his life. God allowed Satan's plan. Satan gave him sores from head to toe, so painful that he could not move and speak for days. His three friends, namely Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar came to comfort him. They took turns speaking to him, trying to shed some light, but all their words simply brought greater pain to Job. Rather than being comforters, they were giving Job "nonsense advice" and accusing him of sinning against God, being pious in his own right, etc. They replaced compassion with pride and pious theology phrases and judgments. Job would probably be better off without these friends.

Let me ask you, if you have a friend who's suffering, probably grieving for a lost parent or a broken heart, how would you comfort him? Are you the type that offers unsought advice? You say "Sis, you should go out more often and have fun.." without her asking for it.

Are you "like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda" by trying hard to cheer a heavy heart? You say "Okay lang yan..." just to have something to say and break the uncomfortable silence.

Many times, what a suffering heart needs are two listening ears and one encouraging, but oftentimes silent mouth. No one person has all the facts about suffering, so it would be very dangerous to conclude what's really happening and what one should do now. In Job's case for example, Job thought that God was unfair; his friends on the otherhand thought Job was sinful. But what they did not know was that there was a battle waged in heaven.

Be careful when a friend opens up to you. It won't hurt to pray for God's wisdom as you seek to counsel a friend.

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