Off-Course Assistance

I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all!”—Job 16:2 (NKJV)

Has anyone ever tried to solve your problems—only to make you feel worse? Job was well acquainted with this scenario. His friends were all too ready to give reasons for his suffering and advice to fix his tragic loss, and he was quick to retort with what kind of “comforters” he felt they were.

Author Mike Mason explains it this way: “Aspirin is a good and effective medicine. But it is useless against cancer. Similarly, so much of the advice that Eliphaz and the other friends dole out [to Job] is, in its own right, correct and good and true. But because it is wrongly applied, it becomes useless.”

When Job called on his friends in his moment of need, he didn’t ask for their advice (Job 6:22-23). To put it in terms we can relate to, he was venting. He asked his friends merely to look at him (6:28), listen to him (13:6), and show him kindness (16:14). Yet, what they afforded Job he labeled as miserable. The Hebrew word for miserable is translated as toil, trouble, or mischief. Their abject finger-pointing at Job’s personal responsibility for his circumstances was void of edification or truth in love (Ephesians 4:29; 4:15). Job, already spiritually bruised and broken, was forced to defend himself on an earthly battleplane. How miserable, indeed!

And what of Job’s friends—what damage did they incur? Initially, none. In fact, their value as friends is seen in how they came to him in his suffering, traveling a great distance to do so. They sat seven days with him in silence, mourning with him (Job 2:11-13). That’s laudable. Where they veered off course is in their interpretation of why Job was suffering. Their hostile, uncensored allegations implied Job had done something wrong, that he needed to repent, and (the kicker) he was getting what he deserved (11:6). This brought God’s condemnation upon the three friends because they misrepresented Him (42:7). Because of a mistaken diagnosis, their aspirin was wrongly applied.

Perhaps a better application would have been “ointment and perfume to delight the heart.” After all, “the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9 NKJV). Another option was to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15 NIV) and encourage the fainthearted (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Godly counsel, encouragement, patience, and a listening ear are the best prescription for an ailing heart. 

DIG: What actions did Job’s friends take that were useful? Where did they go off course?

DISCOVER: Do you think the advice given to Job was meant to cause misery? Why or why not?

DO: Is there someone in your life who can provide strong, godly counsel when you are in a bad place? And how can you do the same for others?

About the Author

Lisa Supp

Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.