“I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.”
JOB 16:2-5 (NLT)
Words of Job spoken to his friends
Several thousand years ago, a man named Job endured terrible personal suffering. I can’t even imagine the emotional and physical pain he endured – in one devastating blow after another he lost his children, his wealth and finally his health. As he sat on an ash heap and scraped the sores on his diseased body with bits of broken pottery, some friends came to visit. Job’s condition was so appalling that for the first seven days his friends sat with him in silent comfort. But after a time, they each felt compelled to offer an explanation for Job’s personal torment. Although their explanations varied, they each conveyed the same clear message: JOB, YOU ARE GUILTY!!! Adding to Job’s burdens – the burden of guilt. When it comes to the world of pain and suffering, things haven’t changed much since Job’s time. Many people who suffer today hear the same message from their would-be comforters: YOU ARE GUILTY! The message may be offered in a variety of terms – if only you hadn’t done this – if only you only had done that – if only you had more faith – if only you would confess your secret sins – IF ONLY –IF ONLY – IF ONLY – but it is the same message of guilt. Rather than bringing peace and comfort to the individual suffering, the condemnation of guilt only adds to the burden. I don’t think that finger-pointing comforters actually intend to hurt people who are suffering. Most of them sincerely want to help and fix our problem but deep inside they may fear that the suffering they observe may happen to them so they build up walls of false protection by thinking, I am not like that person – I have not done what that person has done so I won’t suffer like that. I remember one young man who confronted me during my battle with cancer. He approached me after a speaking appearance. He told me I had cancer because of the sin in my life and that if I confessed that sin, God would restore my health. He was saying to me YOU ARE GUILTY DAVE! What a load of guilt he dumped on me! Fortunately by that time I had struggled enough with God on the “why” of my cancer to recognize the false guilt inherent in the young man’s solution. Thank you God that I had the strength to politely but clearly, reject that guilt. I responded to him by saying, “I appreciate what you are saying. I do have sin in my life but I can’t say that this has happened because of it. I do know that cancer has caused me to draw closer to God. Who am I – or you – to say what God should or should not be doing in my life? God is in control of that. We are not.” We rarely know the reasons for suffering in our own lives – much less in the lives of others. Authentic encouragement doesn’t come from the person who says, “I have the answer to why you are suffering.” Those words often produce guilt. Encouragement most often comes from the person who lovingly says, “I don’t have the answer to why you are suffering but I care about you. I want to stand by you as you go through this.” Job, although he suffered greatly and was deeply troubled by his lack of understanding of why he suffered still he was able to reject the false guilt that others placed upon him and God later affirmed Job by declaring him NOT GUILTY.
The suffering one endures is enough of a burden without adding to it the weight of false guilt. False guilt is a very heavy burden – a burden that keeps hurting people from discovering the peace and hope that is so necessary to endure suffering. My prayer for you is that you, too, will reject the false guilt that is placed upon you, receive God’s verdict of NOT GUILTY and receive His peace and His hope as you endure.
God’s Verdict – Not Guilty
After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite:
“I am angry with you and your two friends,
for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. … my servant Job will pray for you,
and I will accept his prayer on your behalf.
I will not treat you as you deserve,
for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”
JOB 42:6-7 (NLT) Words of God spoken to Job’s friends
On the journey with you,