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Helping the Hurting

Job  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:02
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Job is hurting. Time has passed since the initial testing, and although the response from Job initially was good, now He is completely nonfunctional. How do you help someone who is hurting to the degree that Job is hurting? Believe it or not Job’s three friends actually do something right initially in their attempt to help a hurting Job. And we can glean several important truths that will better equip us to help others when they are hurting.
When my kids get hurt they rarely come to daddy. I can just see one of them getting hurt outside playing with their brothers. You hear them coming long before you see them. Not even the walls of the house silence their wails. Then the sound intensifies as they open the door and slowly plod up the stairs. I happen to be their waiting for them, and I ask, “what’s the matter?” They look at me, (I am obviously not their main objective) and then continue to howl as they turn and head down the hall with eyes searching for something or someone. Who are they searching for? Mommy. Mommy makes everything better. She has the medicine to help the hurt, daddy just does not cut it.
Sometime we feel this way when we try to help those that are hurting. We feel like we don’t have the right “medicine” to help in anyway. We feel useless and slightly embarrassed, so we do nothing because we do not know how to help those that are hurting.
3 commendable qualities of Job’s friends that are important in helping the hurting.

I. A willingness to help

Job 2:11 KJV 1900
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

A. Genuine Friends

When Job’s friends hear about the suffering that he is going through they agree to travel together to Uz in order to be a help to Job.
It would seem that some time has passed before Job’s friends arrive, perhaps a few weeks or months.
These friends were wealthy sheikhs, like Job
The location of their homeland is uncertain, but it would seem to indicate that they traveled some distance to arrive in Uz.
These were not “fair-weather friends.” While everyone else abandons Job, not these three, they travel from a distance, give up their time, and actively engage with Job with a goal to comfort him.

B. Genuine Lonliness

They were the only ones who were willing to engage Job in his suffering and at least try to help. Everyone else had abandoned Job.
Job 19:19 KJV 1900
All my inward friends abhorred me: And they whom I loved are turned against me.
Job has now been in constant pain
Job 30:17 KJV 1900
My bones are pierced in me in the night season: And my sinews take no rest.
probably for at least a few weeks or maybe even months.
No longer does he enjoy his position of honor in the gate, but he is now sitting as an outcast in the city garbage dump- in pain and misery, completely alone.
At least these three friends had a willingness to help Job when no one else would.

How can you help—or hinder—those grappling with illness, loss, or injustice? Personal embarrassment prods us to avoid the sufferer. We wouldn’t know what to say. Suffering alone compounds the suffering (Ps. 142:4).

Psalm 142:4 KJV 1900
I looked on my right hand, and beheld, But there was no man that would know me: Refuge failed me; No man cared for my soul.

II. The goal of being compassionate

A. Good Motives

Notice the stated goal of the friends- “to mourn with him and to comfort him.”
The Book of Job F. The Arrival of the Three Comforters (2:11–13)

Motivated by love and their commitment, these men came to console and to comfort Job. The word to console (Heb. nûḏ) means literally “to shake the head or to rock the body back and forth” as a sign of shared grief. To comfort (Heb. niḥam) is to attempt to ease the deepest pain caused by a tragedy or death (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:24; Isa. 66:13). With the noblest intentions, these three earnestly desired to help Job bear his sorrow.

Isaiah 66:13 KJV 1900
As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; And ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

B. Good Intentions

So with the goal of consolation and comfort Jobs friends travel to find their friend, and upon getting their first glimpse of Job from a distance they were astonished. All of Job’s former estate, which would have most likely dominated the landscape, was completely obliterated, and Job himself was unrecognizable, because his body was so disfigured by disease.
When they saw this site they cried aloud and wept and rent their mantles. They through dust, symbolic of death and disease into the air.
The Book of Job F. The Arrival of the Three Comforters (2:11–13)

The Hebrew expression is curious; literally, “they threw dust on their heads heavenward.” This gesture expressed the depth of their sorrow at such horrifying affliction.

Job’s friends obviously had good intentions. Good intentions, however, are no guarantee that I will really be helpful. Had they just sat with Job and grieved with him we could commend them. Instead, their words to Job misrepresented God, who ultimately told them to bring sacrifices lest he “deal with them according to their foolishness.”

III. A determination to enter into his grief

A. A good initial response

Job 1:20–22 KJV 1900
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
1. The rending of his garment indicated Job had suffered great loss.
a) The garment was worn by people of rank.
b) Tearing it meant imploring God at this moment was more important than the symbol of his position.
2. Job did not question God.
3. He consoled himself by recognizing God’s ownership of all.
4. He worshipped God in spite of his losses
5. Job unwittingly verified God’s earlier assessment of him.
The person may even respond to additional loss well enough that we conclude they are walking with the Lord and will be fine.
1. Next, Job lost his health when he was stricken with a painful disease.
2. The one thing he did not lose, his wife, was telling him to go ahead and sin.
3. Job, however, attempted to correct his wife.
Job 2:10 KJV 1900
But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
4. Job again did not sin with his lips.
Discussion/Application:
a) At this point, Job seems committed to a course of action and cannot be faulted.
b) But this is only the initial response.
c) We can make a mistake here of projecting our own response to some trauma onto the person who is actually suffering.

B. A radically different response

Job 2:13 KJV 1900
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
1. They initially said nothing for they saw that his grief was very great.
2. Job was apparently in something of a catatonic state by the time they arrived. He was so overwhelmed by the situation that he was either unable or unwilling to speak for a week. He simply could not function.
Story of train engineer
3. So, the immediate responses as reflected in Job’s words have given way to a radically different response after a few weeks/months.
Job’s friends sat with him for a week. They entered into his grief. They gave Job the gift of their time and presence.
Job’s friends were willing to “roll up their sleeves” and put themselves in an uncomfortable position. They were at least trying to help.

IV. Practical Ways to Help

Layton Talbert, Beyond Suffering: Discovering the Message of Job.
1. Be Inclusive

We focus all our attention on Job, but Job’s wife lost everything, too. Be attentive to background sufferers. Affliction rarely affects isolated individuals. No sufferer is an island. Surrounding almost any primary sufferer are secondary sufferers—spouses, children, siblings, caretakers. Secondary suffering may be a different kind of suffering, but it can be every bit as acute.

When a couple lost their first child five hours after her premature birth, I regularly contacted the father to see how he was doing and to listen to anything he might have to say. He told me once that I was the only one who made an effort to talk with him about their loss. As the primary sufferer in this case, the mother was the natural focus of attention and consolation. He understood that his wife needed special support; but nobody really thought of the father in the same terms.

2. Be Sympathetic

“Weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15) is not fuzzy, feel-good advice or hyperbole. It is a command to sympathize, to “feel with” those who suffer (1 Cor. 12:15–26). Your calling is not to attach some explanation to their circumstances. You need not—and probably don’t—have the answer to their affliction. There is a time for counsel, usually when the sufferer solicits it, and there is a time to lay your hand upon your mouth and just weep with them (Eccles. 3:7). The open ear of a sympathetic Christian brother or sister willing to listen without rushing to explain or advise or criticize can be more helpful in working through a difficult experience than you will ever know, until you are the sufferer. Our instinctive response to a suffering saint should be sympathy, not suspicion or censure or advice. Be willing just to sit with them. Even Job’s friends could do that.

3. Be Available

“Bear ye one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). When Paul says that everyone is to bear his own “burden” (Gal. 6:5), he uses the word for a backpack, something suitable and appropriate to an individual, the customary duties of our daily life and calling for which we are individually responsible. The “burden” we are to help others bear (Gal. 6:2) is the word for cargo, a great load too heavy for one person. Offer the sufferer a hand. Run errands; keep the children; help with chores; provide meals. Drop a note or card. Call periodically. Simply being present and available reminds them that they are not alone and that their difficulty is not being ignored or forgotten.

4. Be Sensitive

Sometimes aloneness is necessary, preferable, or helpful (Jer. 15:15–18; Lam. 3:25–28). Balance availability with respect for privacy. Visits and calls are encouraging, but at times your presence may be intrusive. Ask ahead to avoid imposing your presence at a time when privacy, not company, is needed. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can be is absent. Do not take that personally and do not be offended. Ministering to others in times of affliction is about their needs, not about your feelings.

5. Be Prayerful

“Remember … them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves … in the body” (Heb. 13:3). It is not a pious cliché to say that prayer is the most effectual ministry you can have to fellow believers in the furnace of affliction. Pray in their shoes. Pray for them as you would want to be prayed for if you were in their circumstances. Find a biblical request that matches their needs and pray it for them thoughtfully. Tell them that you are praying for them, and even what you are praying for them. God often instructs us through the trials of others and adjusts our own spirits as we pray for them.

6. Be Patient

“Support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). Working through a trial of any magnitude takes time. Scripture exhorts the sufferer to “let patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4), so it is not too much to ask those around the sufferer to do the same. Suffering is not an inconvenient obstacle to “normal” life. Affliction is “normal” life. For the duration of the trial, this is God’s will for their life and ministry. Serving God is not about accomplishing tasks but waiting on Him in all His appointments. No one has expressed this truth more famously than John Milton, the Puritan poet who lost his eyesight by the age of forty-five. “God doth not need / Either man’s work or His own gifts; who best / bear His mild yoke, they serve him best.” Others may travel far and labor long at God’s bidding, but “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

7. Be Scriptural

By this I do not mean you should quote lots of Scripture. Though there is a large place for the Scriptures in consoling the afflicted, resist the temptation to be a surrogate Holy Spirit. Some passages are better left to Him to minister. Do not quote Romans 8:28 to a suffering saint. It is a wonderful verse, but the afflicted have thought of that verse long before you have. Some truths can be effectively ministered to the believer by God alone. Sufferers draw Spirit-ministered comfort from Romans 8:28, but it is not a verse to be doled out like spiritual aspirin, as though it instantly answers all questions, quiets all concerns, and heals all the hurts.

What I mean is, be scriptural in your approach to the sufferer and his or her suffering. Allow the full range of the Bible’s teaching on suffering to inform your ministry to the sufferer. Think through the stories of those who suffer in the pages of Scripture—Joseph, Job, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul. All suffering goes through God and He rarely forwards suffering to accomplish a single object. God typically orchestrates a symphony of purposes through any single experience of affliction.

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