Don’t give advice to the suffering
God tells us “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” I Cor 12:26
Just take a look around and you see there is a lot of suffering in this world, and those with a relationship with God are not somehow immune to it. As we see in Job, there is a bigger purpose in life than just everything going well for us all the time. There is a work that God has started in our lives we can’t always see, and he will bring to a conclusion as the author. At times that will involve suffering and trials…and some of these experiences can go on for a long, long time. It’s natural to want to see trials get wrapped up nice and quickly and people get back to normal, but do you know sometimes it takes more faith to navigate a long trial than a short dramatic one?
The long nights, twists and turns, pain and loneliness can really wear you until you are just raw, struggle with faith and question “why?” is ever present. Does it show a lack of faith when someone isn’t healed right away? It’s actually the opposite…to keep your eyes on God during the hardest and longest of times, and keep moving, believing, and trusting the outcome is in God’s hands requires MORE faith not less.
I’ve know people who have had quick healings or quick answers to prayers and end up leaving their faith in God. God is not just a vending machine where we insert prayer coins and get a product from the machine for the buttons we push. He is more interesting in the relationship with you, in building strength in you, and developing your trust in where he’s bringing you in this life and the next. So it’s not a sign of faith or lack or faith if someone has a long, drawn out trail…in fact it’s not for us to judge this either way.
What is our responsibility in trials? As the scriptures say above, when someone is suffering we should suffer with them. Just be there to support, bring food, talk, encourage or just sit and watch a TV show at times so that things just feel normal :) We should empathize and suffer with a person who is suffering, not offer advice or judgement — these are the opposite of what a person needs at that moment.
While they did empathize with Job at first and sat in silence for a number of days, his three friends did not suffer long with Job, instead they found fault, called him self-righteous, told him he must have hidden sins, etc. And God said that his friends did not speak right of God and was angry with them. This is an interesting point — because if you read the arguments of the three friends you might find similar ideas in what you’ve thought or said in the past to those who are suffering. God was not happy with his three friends with nor was it helpful to job what his friends were saying to him. These arguments and way of thinking are recorded in many many chapters of the Bible for us to see.
Despite this Job forgave and prayed for his friends…and God restored all that Job had. And this point is interesting as well — on the suffering side, know you have an ally in God — but also know that when others do wrong to you God will deal with them. It’s easy to get to a bitter place from being so raw and working through hard words from others. It’s important to get to a place of forgiving those around you too; this shows us it’s important to God too— and when you do forgive he opens the doors of blessings to you. In this case Job had double restored than what he had before…when he forgave his friends and prayed for them.
So we should also suffer with those that are suffering. Not try to fix, offer up remedies, or just say it will all be fine…but we should be there with them. Feel what they feel, carry some of that burden…in short carry some of the suffering if we can. This is something that can really strengthen a person! So let’s think about how we can suffer with those that might need it…and fulfill the what God tells us in his word.
The opposite of that is true as well — when one is honored, we all should rejoice! Let’s also be thinking of ways we can rejoice with those that are honored or have achieved, gotten married, baptized, or anything else that might be something to rejoice about.