Job 19:2, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?”

Job was saying this to his supposed “friends,” who were insisting a legalistic approach on theodicy saying his suffering was because of some great sin he committed. Because of their legalism, he was hurt by the things they were saying. In fact, one of his friends, Zophar, said he deserved worse! “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (Job 11:6). He was basically saying the punishment God sent upon him is less than what he really deserves. What terrible friends! Their legalistic approach was only adding to his suffering.

The wisdom of Christ says to avoid such harsh talk. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Approaching someone’s pain with the erroneous legalistic point of view only adds to their pain. Rather, we ought to approach them with the wisdom of the Gospel and bring encouragement and comfort. This happens when we spend actual time with the person and listen to them and appropriately apply God’s Word of the Gospel. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” are comforting words, for example (2 Corinthians 12:9). Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything. As I’m studying to be a pastor, I have barely begun to learn pastoral counseling, but what I’ve found is that when a brother or sister in Christ is suffering, the only thing they usually need is for someone to listen. Unless they have a misunderstanding of their situation or of God, or unless they ask me a direct question, I usually don’t say anything. Sometimes, unfortunately, believers don’t want to hear the Word of God for comfort because sometimes, in our sin, His Word isn’t comforting. Sometimes they’d rather just vent about their problems, and sometimes that’s enough and they often return praise to God afterwards. At least that’s what I’ve found.

Ultimately, we need to redirect all suffering to Jesus on the cross. Jesus endured suffering for our sake; therefore, we can come to Jesus in the midst of pain, who knows all about suffering. When a friend is suffering, we need to make known to them Jesus’ beautiful words, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Coming to Jesus in this way isn’t always easy to do, even for believers. I can recall one time where I was in so much suffering in my self-loathing that I stood before a cross at a men’s retreat I was at, prostrated myself before the cross—face on the ground and everything—and weeped. I bawled my eyes out before Him and laid out all my suffering before Him. That same weekend, He gave me the strength to overcome my suffering (see Philippians 4:13, which is written in the context of endurance through suffering). Sometimes, it takes a lot of humility like that to come before Jesus, lay our burdens before Him, and rely completely on Him to take it away. It may be immediately, and it may be some time after that. All that’s required is that we trust the Lord to handle our suffering, for He endured the greatest suffering for us all.

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