Inspired by Job 21:1, 17-34
“How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.” Job 21:34 (NRSV)
Much literature has been generated on the subject of why people experience such terrible suffering, especially those who faithfully follow the Lord God. Unfortunately most people spend far more time trying to answer the question ‘why’ than simply comforting those who suffer by being present with them in their pain.
Job was a righteous man, blameless before the Lord, yet he experienced a great deal of pain and suffering. When his friends came to try and comfort him, they tried to explain why these things had happened to Job. Their answers not only failed to bring their friend comfort, they caused him more pain and suffering, because many of their answers came down to a denial of the truth about the way the world works and/or blaming Job for bringing this calamity upon himself by his own actions or inactions.
Isaiah prophesied that the young woman would bear a son and name him ‘Immanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’ That prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of God, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Christ came to save us, not by explaining why pain and suffering occur, but by experiencing pain and suffering with us and for us.
As Christians we do not always have the answers to why bad things happen; we do, however, have the call and the ability to be present with those who are suffering, and the responsibility to not increase their pain with empty platitudes or falsehoods. God in Christ is with us, and while that may not give us the answers we seek, it can bring us comfort to know we’re not alone.
Let us pray. God of empathy, your incarnate Son experienced the worst that humanity can suffer. Give us the wisdom to know when no answer can satisfy, that we may bring comfort with our presence instead. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.