Scripture repeats it, so it must be important in God’s eyes. Like it or not, learning to deal with human suffering is a universal need. As one wise pastor told a classroom of seminary students, “Preach to the brokenhearted and you’ll always have an audience; for there is a broken heart in every pew.”
As we near the middle of his book, we see Job coming apart at the seams. Listen how he describes himself – “my spirit is broken, the grave awaits me” (Job 17:1); “my dreams are shattered” (17:11); “where then is my hope— who can see any hope for me?” (17:15)
Several thousand years removed from the scene, it’s pretty clear that what Job lacked, and what he desperately needed, was hope. And when he couldn’t find it himself, he begged his friends to help him see it. Sadly, they apparently didn’t grasp the need, or felt the best way to meet it was through lectures to Job about his unrighteousness. Did Job find comfort and hope in their words? Not in the least. In fact, he found their words “tormenting, crushing, a reproach, and an attack” (19:2-3).
What do our suffering friends who see no hope need? I don’t have simple answers, because I don’t think they exist. But, as Job teaches, I’m fairly certain they don’t need lectures or platitudes. Since God is our only true source of lasting hope, we all need to be directed to Him.
Perhaps providing the comfort we have received ourselves is a better way to point them to the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4)? Reminding others of His love, shelter, and provision might be a good start. Ultimately, if they have nothing else, we can remind them of the hope of heaven that awaits those who have accepted Christ.
How might you help the discouraged find hope today? –Dave
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