Silencing the Sufferer

Michael Beck

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

We do not tolerate pain well; neither do we have much toleration for suffering people. We want our pain gone ASAP, and we want people who are in pain to get better quickly, or go away from us. The sight of the sufferer bothers us.

Job’s friends could only deal with his unrelenting grief for so long. If he was willing to suffer silently, they put up with him. But when he complained about his pain, they went to work to shut him up. “If only” he would adjust his attitude, be more humble, contrite, honest, etc. he could escape his prison of pain. Job listened to their diagnoses and prescriptions for healing and could only say: “… Ye are all physicians of no value. O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.” (Job 13:4,5)

It is so easy to become impatient with suffering, whether it be another’s or our own. Like Paul, we cry out for thorns in the flesh to be taken away. Sometimes they wonderfully are, sometimes they mysteriously aren’t. What adds to the pain of a sufferer is to have someone tell them that all they’re going through is their own fault, and they could easily be relieved of their misery, “if only” they would do this or that.

The phrase “Job’s comforters” is not meant to be an accurate description; but a statement of irony and sarcasm. Job didn’t think much of his friends’ “ministry” to him: “I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.” (Job 16:2)

Thank God for gifts of healing in the church. But thank God for those who are divinely enabled to suffer with those who are suffering. Both gifts are needed; both are miraculous. It takes grace to let Job speak.

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.