No one wants to suffer. No one chooses to suffer. But Jesus says suffering is inevitable: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). While suffering is never our first choice, it is part of the broken world in which we live. At this point in Job’s story Satan has asked God for permission to “sift” Job, and God gives Satan permission to proceed. Satan takes most of Job’s servants, kills most of his animals and his family, strips Job of his fortune, and since God told Satan he wasn’t allowed to kill Job, he inflicts him with horrible sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. And now, Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, enter the narrative. We’ve been asking this question in our sermon series: “How do we respond rightly to suffering?” Now we are asking, “How do you respond rightly to those who suffer around you?”
11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13
What is your favorite comfort food?
Read Job 2:11-13. What do you notice first in these verses?
What was the intent of Job’s friends? What words are used to indicate their depth of feeling when they saw him?
Read the following passages. What are Job’s friends accusing Job of or implying about him? Do you think they felt these words would be helpful or comforting to their friend?
- Job 4:7-8
- Job 8:4
- Job 11:13-14 | Job 15:1-6
- Job 18:21
- Job 22:4-11
How would you have comforted Job?
Have you ever tried to comfort someone who was suffering, and your attempt failed because of your words or attitude? What did you learn from that experience about how to comfort someone dealing with suffering?
Aaron shared that the word “sympathize” means “to share in or commiserate; to walk in harmony”, and “comfort” means “to give strength and hope; to ease grief or trouble”. What might these words look like practically as you sympathize with and comfort others?
On Sunday, Joe gave an example of what to do and what not to do when comforting others. Did anything he say surprise you? What was the most helpful thing he said that you plan to put into practice?
Is there some kind of suffering in your life that you need to share with another Christian in order to be comforted? Ask God to give you the courage and wisdom to share with a trusted fellow believer.
Is there someone you know who is suffering? Ask God to show you how you can comfort them this week.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What are the three different ways God is described in verse 3? How do these titles affect your view of God and suffering?
In this passage, what does Paul say is the purpose of suffering?
In verses 5-7, what four principles does Paul give concerning suffering and comfort?
“Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree to which we’ve suffered” (Andy Stanley). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?