I Want to Help
Last week I talked to you about Job’s response to his suffering and how recognizing that everything comes from God and is a blessing no matter how long or short we may have it. This week we see Job move from his thankfulness and worship to perhaps a more open and honest response that any one of us might have.
When we pick up in Job 3 we see at the end of Job 2 that it has been a week that Job and his friends have been sitting down in silence with one another. Job has had a week to consider what has happened and why, and his response doesn’t actually change I don’t think. I don’t believe that worshipping God and thanking God for what he was given even though it is now gone is in conflict with the sorrow he now feels.
Job doesn’t attack God or curse God which is the test that God and The Accuser have put Job through, but Job does feel great sorrow and wishes that maybe he shouldn’t have been born.
In response to this great loss and great sense of suffering his friend Eliphaz offers some advice. Unfortunately, the advice he offers seems to come straight from Job himself. I say that’s unfortunate because now Job has to hear what he sounded like all those times he tried to ‘help’ someone in their suffering. Perhaps Job will understand that maybe his advice wasn’t quite so helpful now that he is experiencing loss and hearing what he sounded like all those times.
Eliphaz tells him that he’s impatient. I believe this impatience is in response to both the actual time (one week) since he experienced his loss and the fact that Job is still alive. If Job had truly sinned badly he would be dead. Look at Job 4:7 you’ll see him reference how the innocent haven’t ever perished early in life. Basically what Eliphaz is saying is that you may have sinned bad enough to lose all of your things and family, but not so bad that your life was taken away. I think Eliphaz is trying to be helpful like Job was to all those other people, but none of what he says seems to be very helpful at all.
Sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, we try to be helpful when we see someone suffering and going through loss. We bake them cookies, or we make them a casserole, and we even offer advice on how to deal with the pain, or move past it. Just give it more time. Or maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. Maybe one of the least helpful is trying to associate a loss in our life with theirs. It seems helpful but in reality it diminishes their loss and unintentionally puts the focus on you.
We, as people, have a tendency to try to fix things and make them better. You got a broken hose; lets replace it. Your dress is ripped; let’s stich it back together. You scraped your knee; let’s put a bandaid on it. Oftentimes we can’t bandaid or fix or replace the sadness and loss that we experience in life as people.
One of the commentaries I was reading this week referenced a physician by the name of Rachel Naomi Remen. She refers to 3 different ways to see life, helping, fixing, and serving. She states very succinctly that “When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.” She talks about how when you help you take on a role of power over the other person because you are strong and the other person is weak and therefore you are trying to use that power, even if it’s for good, to help them in their lower state. When you fix something you see it as broken. Like a pipe or a bike, or a car. You have the answers and you fix the thing that doesn’t work anymore.
Serving she says means we are all a part of this life and we use our purpose to serve one another. That service is sacred and that service comes out every part of us even those things that are limiting. We serve with out own wounds and pain. When you serve you serve with your whole being.
Perhaps Eliphaz, and as we’ll see Job’s other friends, would benefit from and understanding that advice, helping, and fixing might not be the best solution to see Job through this tragic and sudden loss.
This article also reminded me of something Jesus said from Matthew 10:43-45, about how we must live a life of service not rulers and tyrants. Jesus came to serve not to be served. Jesus didn’t come to fix or help from a place of power but to serve from a place of love.
Paul also in the book of Galatians says this:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love and serve. That is what the Bible calls us to do. We love fixing and helping. It feels good to do. It makes us feel a sudden sense of accomplishment. but as Remen says in her article that feeds the ego, the self, and doesn’t always work on the person who needs to be loved.
We are a community that has been called into service in the world. That service means that we need to embrace every aspect of our lives and our past so that we can fully embrace our neighbor and love and care for them in whatever moment they find themselves in. A servant heart just like the one who served this world so that we might have life. Jesus, our suffering servant lost his life so we might have it. There was no ego or self involved in that. Pure love and service for a broken and hurting world. True servanthood. True caring. True love. Amen.