Summary: Learn to encourage the despairing by understanding how to meet the four needs of the despairing
If you’ve been with us for a while, you would know that on the third Sunday of each month, we study the Book of Job. We are on chapters 6 and 7 this morning.
Chapters 1 and 2 of Job gave us the setting for the story. Job was a man who worshipped God and shunned evil. Job was wealthy, wise and well spoken of by all. But Satan, one of God’s fallen angels, accused Job of worshipping God for personal gain. Satan asserted that if God would take away the blessings of wealth, of family and of health, Job would turn away from God.
But God, confident in His own worthiness, agreed to allow Satan to take away Job’s wealth, family and health. By chapter 3, poverty replaced Job’s wealth. Self-pity replaced Job’s wisdom. A terrible disease robbed Job of his health. Death became a welcomed friend to Job.
If you were there, you would be speechless. You would doubt that there could be a good God. And if God were good, you would doubt His ability to carry out His goodness. To hear the helpless words of Job would cause anyone to question the existence of a good and almighty God.
That’s exactly what happened to Job’s three friends. They were speechless for seven days. But when Job poured out his helplessness and self-pity, his words ignited a condemning response. Eliphaz spoke out against Job in defense of God.
The true God doesn’t need defending, by Eliphaz or by anyone else. And if Eliphaz were in touch with his own feelings, he would have known that he was trying to keep himself from losing faith.
This morning, we will look at Job’s response to Eliphaz’s words. I want to read from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the book of Job, chapters 6 and 7.
Have you felt this way before? Have you felt despair, hopelessness and great disappointment? If you haven’t, maybe your memory is too short. We live in an imperfect world, encased by an imperfect body, guided by an imperfect mind. Despair, depression and helplessness are a part of this life.
I hear despair from those who see the moral and spiritual decay in our world but feel powerless to change the situation. I hear despair from those who continually give into habitual sin or addiction. I hear despair from those who are single and want to be married. I hear despair from those who are married and want a divorce. I hear despair from those who are facing terminal illness without Jesus Christ.
Despair can result from difficulties in life that require from us more than we have. These situations can be real or perceived. Some of us are more prone to respond in despair than others. Yet all of us, if we live long enough, will encounter situations in our lives where we are powerless to change the negative outcome, no matter how tough and positive our mental attitude.
Whether we suffer despair or serve as comforters to the despairing, knowing the needs of the despairing will help us or another person climb out of despair. Let’s look together at these needs of the despairing and some answers to meeting these needs.
First, we see the need for empathy from a friend. Job 6:1-13.
Eliphaz, at the end of chapter 4, suggested that Job was getting what he deserved. And at the end of chapter 5, Eliphaz suggested that Job’s suffering was only a temporary discipline from God.
Job justifiably responds with angry words. Eliphaz doesn’t have any clue as to the pain and suffering Job was experiencing. Job tells Eliphaz that the weight of his anguish is greater than the sand of the seas and the severity of his pain could only come from a terminal disease given by God. The only thing worse than suffering alone is suffering with someone who condemns you and makes light of your suffering.
What Job needed was someone who could empathize with what he was going through. Everyone wants to be understood, but those in despair need to be understood more than anybody else. If you’re in despair, look for a friend who can empathize with your pain. Don’t look for the people who claim that God is in His Heaven and all is well.
God left His Heaven because all was not well. He came in the person of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins. But before he did that, he spent three years empathizing with our suffering.
Jesus knew what being misunderstood and being ridiculed felt like. He was misunderstood by the Jews and ridiculed by the Romans. Jesus knew what rejection and betrayal felt like. He was rejected by Peter and betrayed by Judas. On the cross, Jesus felt loneliness, powerlessness, guilt and shame, because he bore our sins and paid the penalty with his own life.