Helping the Sufferer: Seeing with “Expert” Eyes

When we focus on our message as comforters, it’s easy to wander into uncharted territory with words that wound. We may think we’ve got the perfect answer for someone in trouble; we may think we’ve analyzed their situation to a T; we may feel impatient while they talk and talk about how bad it is for them. Once we’re given the opportunity to speak, therefore, we can’t wait to say the perfect gem of a response to wrap everything up. Then we can move on. We assume they also can.

At the end of their sitting seven days in silence, Job may have felt very secure with his friends, his peers as wisdom teachers. When Job feels ready,  therefore, he unloads the most intense, extended passage in Scripture on wanting to die (Chapter 3). Job opens with curses on his day of birth and on his night of conception. The curse, we remember, almost fulfills the Satan’s prediction. Instead of Job cursing God, however, he curses his life. Job is so close; does he cross the line, or not?

Although the friends wanted to be with Job in his suffering, and were willing to sit with him for what have seemed forever, what they heard must have upset them greatly. They saw no cause for Job’s extreme language of  curses. As a result, they use strategy after strategy to try to put out the fire. Instead, of course, their insensitivity only inflames Job’s rhetoric, and their arguments only intensify his emotional pain; the tension between them escalates.

When a friend opens up to us, we risk wounding them with a second trauma of misunderstanding, or worse, judgment. In spite of Job sharing his deepest vulnerabilities, Job’s friends wound him again and again.

Have you tried to help someone only to discover you caused more hurt?


About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy ( blog to learn more. provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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