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Dr. Ed Young - How Not to Comfort

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    Dr. Ed Young - How Not to Comfort
TOPICS: Job, Comfort

Suffering is absolutely inevitable! It's a part of life! And if you want to know something about suffering, you have to study the Book of Job. There's no other Book in the Bible or outside the Bible that gives us more insight than this oldest Book in all the Bible. If you would have a Bible that was written chronologically; how many of you own a chronological Bible? Would you lift your hand? Lot of people do not know what that is. If you have a chronological Bible, in all probability, the first Book you'll read is the Book of Job because it's the oldest Book in God's Word, and it's filled with wisdom about suffering.

And so we come to the Book of Job, and you see two questions being batted back and forth, the question of "Why? Why am I suffering? Why am I suffering at this time? Why am I suffering like this"? And the other question is "How? How can I survive? How can I get through it? How does this make any sense"? So you see why and how, and how and why all the way through the Book. Now we better stop and ask a question: "How does anybody get through what Job lived through? How do you get through that? How do you survive? What does Job need"? I'll tell you exactly what he needs! He needs what any one of us would need in moments of extremity.

Job needs to be comforted! He needs comfort. And what is comfort? It's like the, the shock system we have on our automobiles. We hit rough roads in our cars. There's a shock system that takes part of the bumps so we're not just, it doesn't just shake us to death! It doesn't mean the road is smooth, but it takes some of the shocks. That's what it means to comfort. Literally, etymology, the word "comfort" means "to rock". To hold, and to rock. I'm from South Mississippi, and there in the bucolic area of this nation where I was brought up; when someone would get sick, they generally didn't go to the hospital. They may have a doctor check them out; but when it was felt that they would die, someone would literally get in the bed with them, and they would hold them and rock them, twenty-four seven. They would comfort them until they drew their last breath!

That's a picture of comfort. You hold, you rock, you encourage, you comfort. That's what Job needed, and guess what? Here we have three guys showing up! Three amigos! And they come to comfort Job. And let me tell you about these three guys! We're going to encounter them in our study. Job's a long Book, forty-two Chapters. And we'll just have slices out of Job as we study the Book. But let me tell you these three, so-called erstwhile comforters! First of all, there is Eliphaz! Eliphaz seeks to comfort Job from the perspective of experience! He says "I've got a lot of experience in suffering! I know exactly what the problem is", and I call Eliphaz like Robert Young in "Father Knows Best", remember that situation comedy?

You know, "Cause I have all this experience; I'm the father..." And that's the approach Eliphaz gives. "I've got experience, Job. I know how to comfort you. I know what your problem is". The next guy's a guy named Bildad. Bildad comes across as he deals with Job like -have, have you seen "Fiddler on the Roof"? How many of you've seen the movie, or know "Fiddler on the Roof"? If you haven't, go do it this afternoon. It's a great little, little, little movie. In "Fiddler on the Roof", they ask big, profound questions of the Rabbi. And the Rabbi gives the same answer. He says "Rabbi, why is this"? And he says "Tradition". "Well why do we do this"? "Tradition". "Why don't we do this"? "Tradition". Anything you ask the Rabbi, "It's traditionnn, traditionnn"! And this is Bildad. This is how he approaches Job. He says "Job, traditionally, this is how you handle suffering; this is what suffering is all about".

Then the last guy is Zophar, and Zophar is like Archie Bunker! Remember him? You know Archie Bunker is in your face! He said "My intuition, I have this gut feeling..." And so that's the way this "comforter" tries to deal with Job and his problem. So here are the three comforters, and read about them! Let me read, uh, their story to you when they arrive. They're in Job, Chapter Number 2, Verse 11. Now when Job's three friends heard of all the adversity that had come upon him; they came each one from his own place. Eliphaz, the Temanite; Bildad, the Shuhite, and Zophar, the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him, and comfort him. There's our word!

Verse 12: When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept, and each of them tore his robe, and they threw dust over their heads towards the sky. Verse 13: Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. Now we come to Job, Chapter 3. I want you to notice something about Job 3, first of all. I want you to see how many times you see the word "Let". Look at Chapter 3 of Job. Look at Verse 3. "Let". Look at Verse 5; you got three "Let's". Let, let, let. Verse 6: "Let". Let, let, three lets. Verse 7: "Let". Let. Verse 8: "Let". Verse 9: "Let". Two lets, let. Three lets, let. Verse 11: We go to "Why, why why"?

Now what is this all about? Verse, Chapter 3 of Job is a Chapter in the Bible -I'll be honest with you: I wish it were not there. I really do! It's a picture of a man who is so down, so beat up, so defeated, and we know why, do we not? We know why! I think about St. John of the Cross. He talked about the dark night of the soul. Can you identify with that? The dark night of the soul! This is where Job is. Nowhere to turn; no answers. His best friend, God, is A.W.O.L. He's not there! Absent without leave... And now he has gone through the depths of darkness and despair! He's in the bottom of the pit, and it is the dark night of the soul, and here Job says some very hard things! First of all, he says "I want to curse the day I was born". He didn't curse God; but he said "I wish you would take a calendar, and take that day and just wipe it off the calendar. I curse that day"! He said "I curse the moment when I was conceived"! He said "I, I wish that I had died in my mother's womb..."

All in Chapter 3. He said "I wish I had been still-born"! He said "I wish when I had first came into the world that I would have breathed only my first breath, and that would have been it"! He is so down; he is so broken; he is so empty! And he tells us about it. It's a picture of depression. It's a picture of "There are no answers". It's a picture that we don't like to read about; we don't like to experience; and therefore, it's the dark night of the soul. By the way, let me say something to everybody here: When people are going through the dark night of the soul; cut them some slack! Okay? Don't just march in there! You say "I want to be helpful"! These friends want to be helpful, but they were terrible comforters. Read sometimes in Job, Chapter Number 16, Verse Number 2. Job says about these three guys, "You are sorry comforters"! Sorry comforters!

And so let's just move through Chapter 3, and all this "Let, let, let..." In other words, that's wishful thinking. "Let this, let that, less this, let that..." That's how people get when there're no answers, when everything seems to be hopeless, and they're helpless! So after this, Eliphaz spics, speaks up. This is the first friend that showed up. And by the way, the, these friends are something! They just came. They were business associates. Evidently, Job, they had the same moral standards. They were probably in trade internationally, even at that period of time, because Job was the greatest man in the East. They were probably Sheiks who'd come in, and they'd known each other for years; admired each other for years; celebrated with each other for years, and they come, and they're there with Job. The first one of them speaks up.

I want you to see it in Chapter Number 4. Eliphaz, the Temanite, answered. Now Job has gone through all this bottoming out feeling, and Eliphaz answers Job. He said "If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient"? By the way-everybody talks about Job's patience. He was patient for two Chapters! Eliphaz: "Will you be impatient if I speak with you"? And look at Verse 4 of Chapter 4. "Your words have helped the tottering to stand". Eliphaz, talking to Job. "You have strengthened feeble knees; but now it has come to you, and you are impatient! It touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? Remember now", listen to this, "Whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, experienced..." Father knows best! "Those who plow iniquity, and those who sew trouble harvest it".

What's he saying? He's saying "Job, you said you're a man of integrity. You said that you're God-fearing; but I know something is dark in your life. You have a great immoral something going on there. You might as well confess it and get it out of the way"! Now, Job is depressed! Here's this guy saying "You're a low-down, rotten, dirty scandal! You're a sinner down deep, or this would not be happening to you. You better get your life straightened out, or you're gonna really-the suffering's going to get more intense, and you're gonna be out of here"! Job says "I want to get out of here"!

You see what happens? There are no simple answers to understand suffering. Here's Joseph. Remember Joseph in the Bible? Spoiled brat. His dad treated him like the favorite. Joseph was so insensitive; he didn't know he was a megalomaniac! He didn't know how people thought about him! He just sort of pranced and strutted around. His brothers hated him! They wanted to kill him! They sold him into slavery. In, in slavery there, Joseph prayed. God didn't answer his prayer! He went from slavery; he went to prison. Joseph prayed. God, in a reasonable period of time didn't answer his prayer, because God was doing something with Joseph, preparing him to get a hold of himself, and to be His man. And it took suffering to prepare Joseph to be Prime Minister of Egypt, where he was led to save his family physically, and spiritually, as well as save the people of Egypt from starving to death.

So he had to go through suffering! Empty days, hard times, prison, slavery to prepare himself, God preparing him for leadership. You say "Well that's what suffering's all about"! Oh no, there are other stories... Here are the disciples, and they are walking with Jesus. They see a man who was blind, and Jesus' disciples says "Hey, that guy is blind! Did, did he sin? Or did his parents sin"? See, what they were saying, "I'm not blind; therefore, I didn't sin, something that serious, and my parents didn't sin. What about that guy? Why is he blind? Did he sin, or his parents sin"? Remember how Jesus answered that question? He said "He didn't sin; his parents didn't sin. He is blind so that God can be glorified"! See? Different purposes; different situations!

So sometimes, we have to see suffering, and we don't become the diagnostician. We don't say "Boy, you know, I've got experience in this thing, and this is how..." This is what Eliphaz did, and he was a terrible, terrible comforter, as you and I have been terrible, terrible comforter many time... I've been in hospital rooms, and I've seen all kind of extremity. There's one group there that's denying this person will probably die; there's somebody else there who has a vision from God. They're supposed to come in, and they're to be supernatural healing, and everybody else is to get out of the way! I've seen all extremities! I've seen it all! And so many times, this is not, most of the time the way comfort should take place.

Eliphaz had all the answers from experience! If you're gonna comfort somebody, don't try to be a doctor! Don't by, try to be a voice from God speaking authoritatively! This was Eliphaz's problem! Two Chapters, he beats up on Job! "Confess your sin! Then you can die! Confess your sin! There's something dark going on, Job, or you wouldn't have lost all your wealth, lost all your children, and now you have this disease that's killing you that's the most painful thing we could imagine"!

Now, Job answers Eliphaz! Eliphaz challenges Job, and this is Job's response. Look at it. Uh, it, it begins in Verse 6: Then Job answered, "Oh that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances against my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea". He said "All the problems I've had, the wrong that I've done in my life" he said "Look at all of this suffering that's come to me"! He said "You think that's proportionate? You, you think I deserve all this to happen to me in light of that which I have failed over here"? Job says "That's nonsense"! Then what else does Job say? Look at the latter part of Verse 10. Tremendous Verse! "That I have not denied the Words of the Holy One..." That's tremendous! "In all of this" Job says, "I have not denied the Words of the Holy One".

He had not delied the Words of God. In other words, he was still a worshipper! He was still God-fearing and God honoring. "He wanted to die; he cursed the day he was born. He was totally depressed, but he said in all of this, I've not denied the Words of the Holy One". And that's so important. Let me tell you one of the purposes of suffering. You can always be sure one of the purposes of suffering is that in the end, we understand one thing clearly: God loves us! Whatever happens, whatever the purpose, whatever the nuances, whatever we're going through, we have to be confident that God loves you, and God loves me! And when you got that; you've not denied the Words of the Holy One, because He really does!

Now, we've talked about these sorry comforters. Let's flip it over! How can you and I become excellent comforters? How do you comfort people? How do we comfort one another? How do friends comfort friends? Four things, number one: Friends comfort friends by showing up! Just show up! These guys, they heard about Job's problem; they just showed up! That's the first thing you do. You're there! You're present; you're with them. You show up. What's the next thing? You feel as they feel. Friends feel as you feel. You can't feel it totally, completely; but you practice all the empathy that you can. We see these friends did that. They showed up, didn't they? And it said they spent seven days, seven night down in the garbage pit in the dirt with Job. They slept right there with him. They felt as he felt.

Third thing: Friends are not turned off by what they see and what they smell. You're comforting someone who's suffering. These friends looked at Job, and they didn't recognize him, he'd lost so much weight! The stench of his disease; the stench of the garbage dump; the stench that goes with suffering and, and those on, on the edge of death; friends are not turned off by what they see, and what they smell! That's the third characteristic of someone who would be a comforter.

The fourth characteristic: Friends who comfort friends don't say much. You don't say much. You don't have all the answers. It really takes two things to be an effective friend who comforts! Truth and tears. A little bit of Truth, and appropriate tears. I want you to see that from a story in the Bible. Lazarus, Jesus' friend, died. Jesus was not there. Evidently, the funeral had taken place, but they were still grieving Lazarus. And then Mary, and Martha were there, and Jesus comes four days late. Martha runs out to Jesus and says to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died"! How did Jesus answer her? With Truth! "I am the Resurrection and the Life". And then Mary hears that Jesus is coming, and Mary gets up and runs to Jesus, and some Jews follow her, and they are crying; they are grieving the death of Lazarus, and Mary says the same thing that Martha said. "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died"! How did Jesus respond? He broke down and wept. Truth, "I'm the Resurrection and the Life..."

Aahh, a little word, a needed word. Tears... Jesus cried with Mary and Martha, and the crowd. You see, those two things are needed if you and I would be an effective friend who comforts. You say, "Well, I don't know what to say"! Then don't say anything! The tears are more eloquent than words; but if you say something, it has to be a clear word. You see, the problem with a lot of this that Job is doing; you read Job's response, and Job's lament. You know what he's doing? He is praying, but also he's performing. Now, nobody would ever do that! If I reached out here and called on one of you to per... "Would you stand up and lead this congregation in a prayer"? What would you do? Well, you would pray, but you'd worry about, "Am I saying it right? Did I say 'Thee' or 'Thou' or did I sound religious enough, or I wonder what all these people think about my prayer"!

See, there is a performance element there as well as a praying element! This is what Job is doing! He is praying, but yet he is performing before his friends! He's seeking to present his rationale as to why this suffering is unjust, and why he's not a rotten sinner as they think he is! He's praying, and he's performing! Boy, it's terrific to hear somebody really pray and just only talk to God! My dad didn't become a Christian until he was in his 40's. My mother always required that my brother and I have family altar. We prayed at night; read the Scripture every night. I didn't like it! But I remember after my dad became a Christian; for the first time, for the first time; we were sitting on the bed, and my dad came in and sat on the bed with us, a brand-new Christian! He didn't know all this language! He didn't know anything about church! He just met Jesus and now was a Christian.

And we read the Bible, and we all prayed. We waited to see if Dad would pray. And my Daddy prayed. I'll never forget it! It was just a person talking to somebody that was a new friend. It was so simple, so plain, so unchurchy; but it was real! No performance! This is a part of Job's problem here! He is praying and offering this rationale, but he's performing for his friends! It's a problem with the friends here! They're trying to seem so philosophical, and so compassionate! They didn't know that the two things you need to comfort somebody is Truth, and tears! And Truth; you have to speak the right words!

Let me give you quickly one of my favorite little Verses in all the Bible. Look at Proverbs, Chapter Number 25, Verse Number 11. Listen to this! "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances". I love that! Another translation, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver". Solomon penned these words. He was familiar with the custom of that day. When a king would have a banquet; all the guests-there would be a silver bowl passed around, silver uh, fetigee passed around. The silver bowl would be passed around. It would be full of golden apples, and the bowl would be passed, and everybody who was a guest would take a golden apple home with them. Pretty good party, isn't it? Just pass this around!

Everybody take a golden apple home! And they'd pass it around for all of their guests. And here this Scripture said "A word fitly spoken, rightly spoken; a word of Truth at the right time is like an apple of gold! An apple of gold..." You want to be an effective comforter? A fit word, a beautiful word, an apple of gold, coupled with tears; and all of a sudden you've showed up. You're trying to feel what they feel... You're not turned off by what you see, or what you smell, and you don't say much. But when you say something to comfort, it is with tears, and with the truth, a word of truth; and that truth has to be like an apple of gold!
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