Lent Devotional: Job 2:11-13
by Jonathan Haefs
Today’s devotional is authored by SVCC intern Allison Davis
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
I don’t know about you, but I’m what you’d call a “fixer.” You have a problem? I can give you a list of ten ways to solve it quickly and effectively. We have an argument? I immediately want to smooth things over. I’ve been convicted of not being willing to wade through the “mess” of life with people. I want the mess to be cleaned up promptly.
In a recent pastoral care and counseling class at Beeson, my professor said something incredibly profound: “Sometimes quick advice feels like rejection.”
Ouch. He’s right.
If you come to a trusted friend or mentor with something you’re struggling with, what do you prefer to receive? A patient, listening ear, or a rushed solution that brushes off your pain?
Job’s three friends do a lot wrong in the book, but they do the right thing in verses 11-13 of chapter 2. First, they hear about Job’s suffering and go to comfort him. They sacrifice their own plans and schedules for the sake of a beloved brother. Secondly, they weep and mourn with him. Job’s pain brings them pain. Finally, they say nothing. For a whole week. These three friends don’t try to cheer Job with inspirational statements. They don’t tell him to pull himself up by his bootstraps and get over it. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar don’t give quick advice. Instead, they just sit in silence. They practice what we call “the ministry of presence.”
These three men give us a great model of how to deal reasonably and gently with one another. But, as I said, they mess it all up later.
Jesus is our best model of how to relate to those who are suffering. When Mary and Martha mourned their brother Lazarus, Jesus wept with them, even though he knew Lazarus wouldn’t be dead for much longer. Jesus did not follow society’s practice of ostracizing those with leprosy. He spoke to lepers and treated them as people. He healed them. He dined with the least of these—tax collectors, prostitutes, those on the fringes of society who were rejected by religious people. Ultimately, Jesus knew suffering personally, and he knew how to suffer well. On the eve of his arrest, considering his impending crucifixion, he prays: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
But Jesus is not a mere model. He is God Incarnate who sends us the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Helper, the Spirit who continually aids us as we navigate relationships with one another. Will you pray this with me?
Holy Spirit, help me to love like Jesus loves. Help me know when to speak, but more importantly, help me know when to stay silent. Bind my fleshly nature from directing me on the easy path. Strengthen me to sit in the mess with my brothers and sisters as they suffer and grieve. Help me mourn with those who mourn. Help me suffer well. In the name of Christ our Lord, Amen.