Respecting the Sufferer

Untrained and/or inexperienced counselors use several strategies to keep sufferers at a distance. They need to do this to remain “safe” from the pain engendered by what they hear. When they hear of tragedy, they rush to help, but as soon as they get close to the person in desperation, they can feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and helpless.

Unaware of what the sufferer needs, or maybe very aware, the counselor feels incapable of providing the needed empathy. Instead of listening or saying, “Tell me more,” they make pronouncements, ask for, or provide, information, offer advice, or give their insight. That effectively stops the conversation by changing the subject, or by refocusing the discussion on the would-be counselor.

Eliphaz uses that common strategy to keep Job’s anguish at bay. “See, you have strengthened many,” he says in response to Job wanting to die (4:3 Jewish Publication Society tr. throughout). “You have braced knees that gave way (v. 4b).” Eliphaz deflects Job’s present anguish by reminding him of his former role as a comforter of others in distress. “But now that it overtakes you, it is too much; it reaches you and you are unnerved” (v. 5). Eliphaz has turned the conversation away from Job’s hurt to Job’s seeming inconsistency, if not hypocrisy. He then injects a note of premature hope into the conversation (v. 6) leading to the traditional answer that innocent people never perish (v. 7) and his observation of the destruction of the wicked (v. 8). Notice how easily he slips from Job’s need for understanding to his need to expound on what he knows. Eliphaz has just stolen Job’s conversation. We do this all the time.

Have you asked a friend for understanding, then had the conversation stolen? Have you started to respond to a loved-one in distress, but subtly turned the focus on you?

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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