Adding Insult to Injury

Scripture Focus: Job 5.27
“We have examined this, and it is true.
    So hear it and apply it to yourself.”

Reflection: Adding Insult to Injury
By Erin Newton

There’s no nice way to say this, but Job’s friends are jerks. Maybe they mean well or have a serious deficiency of tact. In the midst of suffering in epic proportions, Job endures painful chapters of the worst advice and lack of comfort by the handful of men in his life. It’s like one “bad take” after another. 

Modern forms of communication (texting, messaging, tweeting) have created a form of terseness that does not really benefit the other person. Our words are often formed under the desire to create something memorable, quotable, something that can easily go viral. A pithy statement is formed, we pat ourselves on the back and declare to the world “apply it to yourself.”

Eliphaz seems to view the suffering in Job’s life as a simple equation. After two chapters describing how Job could correct his situation, the final words end with the statement that there is no way he could be wrong and all Job needs to do is apply this golden advice to himself. 

Jesus confronted this same mindset in his disciples, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9.2). There is an innate desire for life to be a simple “if-then” scenario. If you are poor then it must be strictly your fault. If you are infertile, it’s probably a lack of faith. If you are single, you just need to pray more. These if-then statements are absurd and completely wrong. 

If quick judgments do more harm than good, how do we comfort a grieving friend? I learned through hard situations: sitting with a friend after the death of her father, speaking at a funeral for my friend’s infant child, and waiting for hard diagnoses for my own kids. One of the greatest things we can do for those in grief is to sit and listen. As Paul instructed, “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12.15)

Grief is messy and gray. No black and white solutions. No terse statements will do. Words are empty unless we let them know we are a beating heart, a living soul and a listening ear. The best company during grief are wounded healers, friends who have been down that dark road too. 

Eliphaz should have modeled the character of the Wounded Healer, Jesus. “When Jesus saw her weeping… Jesus wept.” (John 11:33, 35). Be quiet. Listen without judgment. Sadness takes time. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Save me, O God, by your Name; in your might, defend my cause.
Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. — Psalm 54.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 5 (Listen – 2:29) 
Psalm 9 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about When Help Doesn’t Help
Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight.

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We help prompt a daily rhythm…small blocks of time for reading, prayer, and thoughtful reflection throughout your day.

The Grace of Holding Space

Scripture Focus: Job 5:27
We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.

Reflection: The Grace of Holding Space
By Jada Swanson

Eliphaz continues to share his thoughts, encouraging Job to simply turn to God and everything would be alright. When the fact remains, Job never turned away from God to begin with. To his credit, this is what Eliphaz’s tradition has led him to believe. Sadly, he is a misinformed theologian. Which, no doubt, many of us have encountered or, perhaps, we have been at one time or another.

As Christ-followers, we are called to carry one another’s burdens. However, when someone is navigating grief, a traumatic situation, or a horrific loss (relationship, job, etc.), we must resist the need to try and fix the problem, heal the hurt, or repair the damage, and, instead, embrace the tension that exists. Although it can be awkward, during these sacred times, silence is our ally. Instead of expressing empty platitudes or well-meaning, but unhelpful Christianeze expressions, choosing to simply be present with another is the most loving alternative, even if the silence is deafening.

What is most needed in these times is a willingness to simply “hold space” for another. What does it mean to hold space for someone else? Author Heather Plett describes it in this way,

“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control … To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

God, help us all to become comfortable with the necessary response of holding space for another. May we sincerely seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance during those times.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; save your servant who puts his trust in you. — Psalm 86.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 5 (Listen -2:29)
Romans 9 (Listen -5:15)

Read more about Constant Comfort in Suffering
When every other source of joy is dried up…the stream of God’s mercy flows on as freely as ever.

Read more about What to Expect When Suffering
When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.