A small flame

A small flame

Miserable Encouragers

I've blogged before about how much I love the book of Job. About how much strength and light it has give me for my journey - the lessons it has taught me about how to suffer as a believer. Whenever I read Job, though, I'm always a bit surprised at the fact that there are no positive, encouraging interactions with other people recorded during Job's trial. In fact, I'd have to say that the people we see around Job would top my list as some of the least encouraging interactions I've heard of.

So, I found it interesting that Job's 3 friends made it into a book about encouragement. I really appreciated the insights an observations Dr. Jeremiah included in his book.

You know the story, right? In one day, Job lost everything - thousands of animals and all ten of his children - one right after the other. Then, he got sick. Severe itching, insomnia, running sores, scabs, nightmares, bad breath, weight loss, chills, fever, diarrhea, and blackened skin that literally fell off his body. He was so sick that his three friends did not recognize him when they saw him.

Job's wife told him to just 'curse God and die' {some wife, huh?}, but Job said, as he sat in the ashes scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery, 'Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?' And that's when his 3 friends arrived.

Here's what Job's friends did right:

  • They came to Job when he was in trouble. It's easy to be a friend from afar - coming shows commitment.

  • They wept with him. If weeping is genuine, there is probably no better salve you can pour on the wounds of a hurting person than your tears.

  • They identified with him in his misery. They didn't' ask him to leave the ash heap so they could minister to him - instead they went and sat on the ground with him.

What Job's friends did wrong:

  • They responded to his words and failed to feel his pain. They responded to what he said but failed to see what was really going on in his life. They spoke to his words, not his pain. It's easy to come up with words when we haven't really hurt with the person. But what we are to that person is often far more important than what we say - how we sit and listen and are part of their life.

  • They refused to recognize the suffering as a part of God's good, positive, perfecting plan for Job. When we encourage, we must be careful not to assume that we know what is in God's heart for the person we're encouraging.

  • They related all of Job's suffering to sin in his life. Not only is that wrong, theologically, but it is very painful to the person who is already hurting to have the weight of false guilt heaped on them. {Oh how I can testify personally to the truth of this statement!}

  • They rejected the uniqueness of Job's suffering. They gave packaged, trite, simple answers. They explained what was going on in Job's life based on their own experience. We must use the suffering we have experienced to help others, certainly, but we must be so careful not to assume we know what other people are feeling! Every experience of suffering is totally unique to the person experiencing it. It is this suffering for this person at this particular time in this particular context.

Dr. Jeremiah writes: '
When we talk about encouragement in the Body of Christ, we are not talking about back-slapping. We're not talking about positive attitude speeches. Christian encouragement is not a bumper sticker. Christian encouragement is taking what God says in His Word and getting as close to Him as we can get. And then, through His Word and through His Holy Spirit, reaching out to another brother or sister with compassionate love. Being there for them when they are going through their pain and grief. {pp 110}

thoughts in this blog post are from chapter 9 in the book Acts of Love - the Power of Encouragement by David Jeremiah

{read the rest of this series here}

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