Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. (Job 4:8)
In today’s reading, Job’s friends speak to him for the first time. In doing so,we see that they do not alleviate his trial but rather exacerbate it. They put to him the charge that Satan put to God about him: that he is a hypocrite, that his faith in God is not true.
Eliphaz questions whether the righteous have been so afflicted or the innocent perish in such a way (v.7). What he fails to recognize is that while he is right that the righteous do not perish and do not receive eternal punishment, this does not exempt them from temporal punishments or trials.
Eliphaz also charges Job with failing to take his own advice. He comforted those in distress when providence was good to him but now he is troubled and brought low when he is in distress (v. 4). In this, Eliphaz offers Job no comfort but only provokes further desperation.
Eliphaz is a model for how NOT to comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ during a time of affliction. We are tempted to either get them to focus on their sinfulness or to point to better times. Both responses are false.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, give us a model for how we are to correct and assist our brothers and sisters in Christ during times of trouble:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (Galatians 6:1-6)