A common theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments is how God seeks to comfort His people. Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the arrival of the Messiah, so Christians await the return of Christ. The Book of Revelation describes how Christ will wipe away all our tears and restore all things; the Old Testament also eludes to this fact.
In my previous post, we took a deeper look into the Hebrew word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent or comfort” from the perspective of how we can draw comfort when we repent and show the strength to take a new course of action. To read the previous post, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/finding-comfort-in-our-repentance/. In this post, we will examine Nacham from the comforting or consoling aspect of the word. Once again, I will be quoting exclusively from the King James Version.
Job’s Well-Intentioned Friends
When tragedy or difficulties strike our family and friends, our heart aches for them. We often feel so powerless and overwhelmed when we realize nothing we do or say is going to take away their pain. Our hurting loved ones need our presence more than social clichés. We do not have to say anything. Just be there. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them.
Perhaps no one in the Old Testament suffered more than Job. In a quick succession of time, Job’s ten children died, he became ill, he lost his livelihood, and his wife, out of her pain, told him to “curse God and die.” Job, to the best of his knowledge, could not think of anything he did to bring on such suffering and tragedy. Up till the end of the book, God remained silent. When God did speak, Job was not given an explanation for his suffering, but was blessed in the end with more than he had before. Job’s three friends went to comfort him.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came everyone from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent everyone his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” (Job 2:11-13, KJV, emphasis mine).
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar started out with noble intentions, as all three decided to visit their friend. The three men also joined Job in his mourning by following the Hebrew customs of weeping openly, tearing their clothes, and sprinkling dust on their heads, which were all signs of mourning. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar offered no condolences or words of wisdom, they simply sat on the ground in silence for a week, covered in dirt and torn clothes. Job’s grief was so great that his friends did not recognize him at first.
During times of tragedy, we can find ourselves trying to explain why God would allow something to happen. However, the truth is that we cannot fully know God’s reasons nor even begin to understand His ways. Therefore, we do need to speak for God. If we say the wrong thing, we will only add to someone’s grief, which is what Job’s three friends did. If Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, had remained silent when Job began to speak, they would not have added to Job’s grief. However, Job’s three friends accused him of harboring a secret sin and that sin brought on his troubles. In multiple debates, the three friends reasoned with Job that he brought this on himself. This frustrated Job to no end.
“Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do; if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.” (Job 16: 1-5, KJV, emphasis mine).
At the end of the Book of Job, he received the comfort he needed not only from his submission to God, but also from everyone who came out to see him and blessed him.
When the Grief is too much
The pain of yesterday and the uncertainty of the future only adds to the grief in the current moment. When we cannot see past the pain, life becomes too and we fall into despair. If you have reached despair, hold on to hope. There will be difficult days, but you will get through them. If you question “Where is God in the midst of all of this?” do not fret, because the Bible addresses this as well, showing us that we are not alone in how we feel.
“My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, ‘When wilt thou comfort me?’” (Psalms 119:81-82, KJV, emphasis mine).
“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1, KJV, emphasis mine).
“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” (Psalm 69:20, KJV, emphasis mine).
Comfort is on the Way
Though we often picture the Old Testament prophets as bearers of “gloom and doom,” and pronouncing “Woe unto you,” God makes beautiful statements concerning a day when His children will be comforted, even in the midst of famine, suffering, grief, or an invading army. We too can take solace in these beautiful words found in Isaiah.
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass.” (Isaiah 51:11-12, KJV, emphasis mine).
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, KJV, emphasis mine).
If you are experiencing grief and loss, please do not give up hope. This is a process and will take time. There is no set timeframe for this. You do not have to go on this journey alone. In fact, you are not on this journey alone. Though you may have days of darkness and doubt, know that God still loves you. God bless you all.