encouraging the sick January 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Job 15, 16, 17, 18

Encourage, Don't Discourage

If we have we suffered great pain or hardship in our life, how do we wish to be treated? Friends and family may mean well, but when we are in trouble or are suffering great pain, we don't want them to come and “cheer us up” by having all the answers, convincing us of sin so we will repent, or by criticizing us. We want our burdens to be lifted—we want to be encouraged—we want the benefit of the doubt! If we have done wrong, we know it. In times of sickness we don't need someone to righteously point to our sin with an accusing finger. Hospital staff and doctors do not want friends or relatives to hinder a patient's health by causing emotional distress. We should help and not hinder someone's healing and recovery. We can learn how to do this from Job, a righteous man who suffered much.

Job was a faithful patriarch, living at the time of Abraham (more...). The God of heaven was proud of Job's righteousness. In order to embarrass the Almighty, Satan sought permission to tempt Job into cursing his Creator. The LORD allowed it. In just one day, Job lost his family (except his wife), business, wealth, and respect. Seeing Job still retained his integrity, however, Satan challenged God to afflict Job physically.

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.

But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 2:4-7, NIV).

After suffering ruin, despite being righteous and having done no evil, Job lost his health, suffering from a painful skin condition, blackening it. He could not eat and looked emaciated, like a skeleton with skin.

Hearing that Job was sick and in trouble, his friends came to him with a noble motive—to encourage him. Job received them, but to his dismay his friends quickly became his worst critics. This righteous man was suffering emotionally, physically, and mentally. Because Job lamented his circumstances to God and asked the Almighty to stop torturing him, his friends misinterpreted him. They thought he was arrogant and wicked. His friends tried to defend God and condemn Job. All of his “counselors” told him that sin was the cause of his calamity. They accused him of pride, self-deceit, and even implied he was evil.

In today's Bible reading, Eliphaz the Temanite, like his other two friends, argues that Job's fine speeches are just hot air. He says, “You even undermine piety and hinder devotion to God. Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty” (Job 15:4-5, NIV).

This friend takes offense at Job for not accepting their wisdom—Job's friends are his elders, and wisdom is therefore on their side. They argue on and on that he has done evil and this is why God has abandoned him—isn't this the way he always works?

Both Eliphaz and Bildad gang up on Job and even imply he is an unbeliever, a godless and wicked person. Eliphaz expresses their sentiments,

For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil; their womb fashions deceit (Job 15:34-35, NIV).

Men of the west are appalled at his fate; men of the east are seized with horror. Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God (Job 18:20-21, NIV).

What is the proper response to suffering? Job gives us his answer.

Then Job replied: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief” (Job 16:1-5, NIV).

Do we bring relief to those who are suffering or add to their burden and distress?

Job's response to his personal malady is not to deny his sufferings but to retain righteousness and hope.

I have sewed sackcloth over my skin and buried my brow in the dust. My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure (Job 16:15-17, NIV).

In an intuitive way, Job knows he has an intercessor in heaven with God who will plead his case, although Jesus Christ God's Son has not yet been revealed to the world. Job expresses his hope,

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend (Job 16:19-21, NIV).

Today, we know Jesus Christ is that intercessor. The author of the book of Hebrews writes,

Therefore he [Jesus Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest [Jesus Christ] meets our need-- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:25-26, NIV).

Do you know the LORD? Jesus can give you forgiveness, peace, spiritual life, and serve as your mediator before God the Father.

Job does not know if God will deliver him from suffering but supposes he will not. Nevertheless, Job shows us another response to suffering which is most helpful. He says,

My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow. Upright men are appalled at this; the innocent are aroused against the ungodly. Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger” (Job 17:7-9, NIV).

Those who are oppressed but live a life of righteousness, putting their trust in the Lord, are stronger than those who do not. Indeed, Job's resolve is stronger than his friends, for he invites his friends to try again to break him, since they are so wise.

Lessons to Live By

•  Be a help and not a hindrance to someone's healing and recovery.

•  Use your mouth to encourage those who are sick or in trouble. May the comfort from your lips bring relief and not distress to the afflicted.

•  If you are suffering, do not deny it, but retain your righteousness and hope in God.

• Do you know God? (more...). If you do, Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, he is your friend and intercessor. He understands all about your suffering and pain. People sometimes disappoint us, but God will not. Look to him for strength and help in your time of need.

What encouraging words could you speak to a friend? Here are some suggestions:

•  I am praying that God will wrap his loving arms around you and sustain you.

•  I am praying that the LORD will give you wisdom for this trial.

•  God's got this! He knows all about it and will help you through it.

•  I am here for you if you want to talk it out, or I am content to be with you through your trial.

•  Hang in there! Don't give up! Stay faithful!

Focus Verses

Job 16:19-21 (NIV)

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

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A Look Ahead: People who suffer may feel Alienated and Misjudged. What do they do about it? How can we help and not hurt them? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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