Read Job 13
13 “My eyes have seen all this,
my ears have heard and understood it.
2 What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
3 But I desire to speak to the Almighty
and to argue my case with God.
4 You, however, smear me with lies;
you are worthless physicians, all of you!
5 If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.
6 Hear now my argument;
listen to the pleas of my lips.
7 Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf?
Will you speak deceitfully for him?
8 Will you show him partiality?
Will you argue the case for God?
9 Would it turn out well if he examined you?
Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?
10 He would surely call you to account
if you secretly showed partiality.
11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
Would not the dread of him fall on you?
12 Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.
13 “Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come to me what may.
14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy
and take my life in my hands?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face.
16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
for no godless person would dare come before him!
17 Listen carefully to what I say;
let my words ring in your ears.
18 Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.
19 Can anyone bring charges against me?
If so, I will be silent and die.
20 “Only grant me these two things, God,
and then I will not hide from you:
21 Withdraw your hand far from me,
and stop frightening me with your terrors.
22 Then summon me and I will answer,
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23 How many wrongs and sins have I committed?
Show me my offense and my sin.
24 Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?
25 Will you torment a windblown leaf?
Will you chase after dry chaff?
26 For you write down bitter things against me
and make me reap the sins of my youth.
27 You fasten my feet in shackles;
you keep close watch on all my paths
by putting marks on the soles of my feet.
28 “So man wastes away like something rotten,
like a garment eaten by moths.
When someone we care about is struggling, we want to help. Often that help comes in the form of a solution.
“Have you tried _______________?”
“You should _____________!”
“If you had done __________, then this would not have happened.”
While problem-solving or offering perspectives can be helpful at times, Job 13 cautions us against this approach as a default response. This is the approach taken by Job’s friends, however, it does not prove helpful. So, what should we do? How can we be helpful in the midst of others’ suffering?
First, we admit humility and avoid prideful advice. In verses 1-2, Job declares that he knows what the friends know, he is not inferior to them. If offering advice, we must do so humbly, refraining from condescension, and turn our efforts to encouragement. We do not have an exclusive deal with God. Prideful advice is a form of judgement, and judgement is not helpful or loving to the suffering. Jesus declared, “For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world,” in John 12:47.
Next, we acknowledge we are not God. This sounds simple, but in our efforts to make earthly sense of situations, we often rely on our human reasoning and proclaim it as truth. In verses, 7-12, Job admonitions the friends for speaking for God, and we must be careful not to do the same. We like to have answers, but we are not God. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God declares “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Finally, we sit in the silence. Job declares, in verse 5, “Oh that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!” When others suffer, they need sympathy and support, which often sounds like silence. We give them space to grieve, provide permission to be honest, and validate their difficult emotions. We remind them of God’s love through our love.
Job calls us to set aside what we know or think should be done in moments of others’ suffering. He begs us to sit in the quiet moments with others’ pain, acknowledge we don’t have the answers, and simply admit we don’t have any words, but we have His love to share.
- Recall a time when you went through suffering. What words or actions from others, while good-intentioned, were not helpful?
- When you underwent suffering, what words or actions from others proved helpful and encouraging?
- Who is someone you know going through a time of suffering right now? How can you show God’s love to them today?
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