When friends try to comfort us, they often try too hard. After a mother’s miscarriage, for example, someone may say to her, “Don’t worry, you’ll have another baby.” In the effort to assuage a mother’s grief, the well-meaning friend offers cardboard instead of steak.
After Job loses his children, he looks for comfort from his three peers. They meet together, visit Job, and listen for a long time. So far, so good. Once Job opens up with the full blast of his pain (Chapter three), however, one by one, they go to work.
Elpihaz, Job’s first would-be comforter, offers him a lot of hope. Among the life-lines he throws out: “You will see that your offspring are many, your descendants like the grass of the earth” (5:25). In the previous verse, he even tells Job how he will obtain his new children!
Job receives no comfort from that hope, offered too soon. “If my anguish were weighed… it would be heavier than the sand of the sea” (6:2), he says, as soon as Eliphaz finishes. Instead, his mind focuses laser-like on God’s mistreatment of him (see v. 4).
Before someone in emotional pain can receive the hope we offer, they may have other, for them, more important agenda issues to work through first.