June 25 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”
~Job 6:14

Following the death of his beloved wife, author and scholar C. S. Lewis published A Grief Observed under a nom de plume. He feared that the raw honesty of his pain and his struggle with God would discourage loyal readers. (The book was published under his name only after his death.) In the introductory remarks, Lewis explained the pronoun A in his title. This was a grief observed because, while we can sympathize with others in their pain, it is often difficult to fully understand all that they are feeling. (See Proverbs 14:10 and related commentary.)

Sometimes our grief is so great that the counsel of friends feels hallow. When someone says, “I understand what you are going through,” you want to yell back, “No, you don’t!” This is exactly what Job experiences. Well-meaning friends offer advice on how to handle his painful loss. To grasp Job’s point of view, you must read the counsel of his friends from the perspective of a hurting person. There is some truth to their words, but their timing couldn’t be worse!

Eliphaz basically says, Job, you spent your entire life encouraging other people in trouble. Now that you have a little trouble, you are ready to give up. Come on, pull it together (Job 4:3-5). Ouch! The same friend says, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects,” and what he says is true, but Job hasn’t done anything wrong so the truth is spoken out of turn (Job 5:17)! In the same passage, Eliphaz makes a pronouncement that must have hurt Job even more: “You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth” (Job 5:25). True, God could bless Job with children again (and He would), but the kids he buried can never be replaced. The counsel of Job’s friends borders on cruelty! No wonder he calls them “undependable” and accuses them of disloyalty (Job 6:14-15).

When people are grieving, we need to be careful with our words and sensitive in our counsel. I wish I had learned this as a younger pastor. Sometimes I was too quick to give advice. Job’s friends talked like they knew everything, when, in all truth, they had never been privy to the conversations that took place between God and the adversary, Satan. They really didn’t know what was going on. Consequently, their counsel widely missed the mark. When people are hurting, they need to hear more sympathy and comfort and less advice: I don’t know what God is doing in your life, but I know that He loves you, and I do too. I know what it’s like to hurt, but I can’t say I fully understand all that you are feeling. I’m here to help you in any way I can, though. Right now, I’m just going to be your friend. Let me bring you another tissue. 

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.