Job - Suffering

BACKGROUND

Job was a very wealthy and religious man who seemed to have life under control (1:1-5). However, unknown to him, Satan challenged his righteousness. God allowed the challenge, but limited Satan's power to Job's possessions (1:6-12). In quick succession, Satan destroyed all of Job's possessions including even his children. However, Job did not blame God nor question His integrity (1:13-22). Satan then challenged God to let him attack Job's personal health. God agreed, but warned him not to kill Job (2:1-6). Without warning, a loathsome disease fell upon Job; yet he still refused to blame God (2:7-10). Job's friends were shocked and dismayed, but nevertheless came to encourage him and offer their help (2:11-13). To this point Job displayed a traditional faith accepting suffering as inevitable and patiently enduring it.

After the traditional time of mourning had passed, Job cried out wondering why he was ever born or allowed to reach maturity (3:1-26). Job's faith turned to a challenging, seeking faith, confronting God, demanding escape and explanation. Suddenly, out of the midst of a whirlwind, God began to speak. Basically, God said two things. First, He described the marvels of creation and then asked Job if he could have done any better (38:1-40:2). Job quickly responded that he could not for he, too, was just a creature (40:3-5). Second, God described how He controlled the world and everything in it and then asked Job if he could do a better job (40:6-41:34). Job admitted that he could not and that he did not need to for now he had seen God and clearly realized that God had everything well under control (42:1-6).

(Source : Holman Dictionary)

Theme

(Job 2:13 NIV) Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

KINDS OF SUFFERING

Nobody likes to suffer. The first step towards the relief of our own suffering is to diagnose it. Identifying a problem is necessary before we can solve it. The book of Job provides us with a good study of all kinds of possible suffering.

Question : What kinds of suffering did Job have to go through?

Answer :

Financial

(Job 1:14-15 NIV) a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, {15} and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

Lost of loved ones

(Job 1:18-19 NIV) While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, {19} when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

Physical

(Job 2:7-8 NIV) So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. {8} Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

Loneliness

(Job 19:13-19 NIV) "He has alienated my brothers from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. {14} My kinsmen have gone away; my friends have forgotten me. {15} My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger; they look upon me as an alien. {16} I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. {17} My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. {18} Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. {19} All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me.

Loss of esteem/reputation

(Job 12:4 NIV) "I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered-- a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!

What are the types of suffering that you are going through?

Types of suffering

Detailed description of your suffering

Financial

E.g. Loss of job, cannot make ends meet

Loss of loved ones

E.g. Spouse died recently

Physical

E.g. Poor health, physical illness

Loneliness

E.g. Don't have close friends, single but wish to be married

Loss of esteem

E.g. No respect from boss/colleagues

Others

 

PURPOSE OF SUFFERING

Question : Why do you think God allow us to suffer?

Suffering not always due to sin

Job's friends concluded that a person who suffers must be doing so because of his sins.

(Job 4:7 NIV) "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?

Even Job knew that sins will indeed result in punishment by God.

(Job 10:14 NIV) If I sinned, you would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished.

He only refused to admit that he had sinned on this occasion which had resulted in his suffering. This is true as the Bible tells us that Job was indeed an upright man and we know that his suffering had nothing to do with his sins.

(Job 1:1 NIV) In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

We should not that the purpose of God's punishment is not that He enjoys watching us suffer. The purpose is to turn us from our sins.

(Job 33:29-30 NIV) "God does all these things to a man-- twice, even three times-- {30} to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.

To test us
Job suffered because of God’s testing

This was the reason Job suffered. God wanted to test whether Job would still honor God when things are going wrong for him.

(Job 1:8-12 NIV) Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." {9} "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. {10} "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. {11} But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." {12} The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Job also knows that somehow his suffering has to do with God testing him

(Job 7:17-18 NIV) "What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, {18} that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? If we pass the test that God has for us, we will receive a great reward, just like Job.

(Job 42:10-16 NIV) After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. {11} All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. {12} The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. {13} And he also had seven sons and three daughters. {14} The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. {15} Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. {16} After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.

Clarification : Job did not respond in a sinless way when he suffered. He questioned God's justice and His sovereignty. Yet he did not curse God which is a feat because of the severity of the suffering and is itself the point of contention between God and Satan. For this reason God rewarded him.

What is God testing us in when He uses suffering?

Firstly God wants to see whether Job will continue to praise Him despite his suffering.

(1 Th 5:16-18 NIV)  Be joyful always; {17} pray continually; {18} give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Job did well in this regard. In spite of all his suffering, he could praise God.

(Job 1:20-21 NIV)  At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship {21} and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

We don’t praise God for our problems. We praise God for what He will do in our life in spite of our problems.

(Rom 8:37 NIV)  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We praise Him because there are a lot of things we can learn from our suffering. We praise Him because His name can be glorified in our suffering. We praise Him because He is still sovereign in our problems.

To teach us

What do you think God wanted to Job to learn from his suffering?

Answer : His sovereignty

After Job had questioned God long and hard about the cause of his suffering, God did not even answer his question despite replying to Job in five long chapters. In these five chapters, God instead asked Job a long list of questions designed to prove that God is in absolute control of the universe. And that God knows what he is doing and Job knows so little that he has no right to question God for His actions. In other words, God is saying He has the sovereign right to do what He pleases.

What are the possible things that God may try to teach us in our suffering?

To accomplish His purpose

(Job 1:8-12 NIV) Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." {9} "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. {10} "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. {11} But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." {12} The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

What was God trying to accomplish by this testing? To prove to Satan that Job will not curse Him despite intense suffering.

Sometimes we are allowed to suffer because it is in God's overall will that something good will come out of it. An example that comes to mind is Joni. She underwent intense suffering and is now used by God mightily to be an encouragement to many.

(John 9:1-3 NIV) As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. {2} His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" {3} "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

This man was born blind so that one day Jesus could heal him and God's name be glorified because of that.

Personal evaluation

We have considered the types of suffering we are going through. Lets go one step further and question what the purpose of these suffering are. 

​Possible reasons why I suffer

My sufferings
God wants to punish me for…God wants to test me in these areas…God wants to teach me…God wants to train me in….God may be trying to accomplish this….
​Loss of job​Putting job more important than Him.
Compromising my Christian values at work.
​Whether I be bitter and blame Him for the misfortune.​To trust Him to provide.​Perseverance in job seeking. Ability to forgive people who terminated me.​To be an encouragement to others unemployed. To get me into full-time Christian work.
​Physical illness
​Loss of loved ones

RESPONSE TO SUFFERING
Do we become angry with God or praise Him?

Question : Is it wrong to become angry with God when we suffer? Why is it wrong or not wrong?

Answer : Why are we angry with someone? Do we become angry with someone who treats us nicely? No. We are only angry with someone who has hurt us or wronged us. Therefore, when we are angry with God, even though we may not like to admit it, deep down we feel that God has intended to hurt us or that He has wronged us (given us suffering which we don't deserve). If we believe 100% that God only has our good in mind, we would never have become angry. Therefore being angry with God is wrong. Because it betrays our feeling that God intended harm for us.

Job's wife told him to curse God.

(Job 2:9 NIV) His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

While Job did not go as far as cursing God, he did blame God for all his suffering. He accused God of being unfair and uncaring.

(Job 19:6-7 NIV) then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. {7} "Though I cry, 'I've been wronged!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.

It is wrong to be angry with God for our sufferings. Remember God also intends suffering for our good. Why do are we angry with someone who is trying to do us good? It is like a child who is angry with his parents for punishing him. Yet they are doing it for his good. In the eyes of the parent, the child has no right to be angry because they are doing it because they love him.

Another reason why it is wrong to blame God is because we always get what we deserve. God is not an unfair God. Even when we suffer because God is punishing us for our sins, it is because we deserve it. God is never unfair. That is why He rebuked Job for his remarks that he has been wronged.

(Job 40:8 NIV) "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Question : Instead of being angry with God, how should we be feeling when we are angry?

We should not become angry with God for our suffering. Instead, we can learn to praise God in the midst of our suffering because He intended it for our good.

(Romans 5:3-4 NIV) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope.

(Romans 8:28 NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When we praise God for our suffering, we must be very specific and concentrate on the benefits. We had earlier reflected on what the possible reasons are why God allows us to suffer. Thank God for those benefits. When we don't thank God for the benefits but thank God for the suffering instead, we sound stupid even to ourselves and very soon will stop doing it. We also will not mean what we say.

Question : What are the benefits of praising God in spite of our suffering?

When we start to praise God for the benefits of our suffering, the suffering appears less severe. This is because we are concentrating on the positive aspects of the situation.

Question : What do we praise Him for when we are suffering?

Answer : We don't praise Him for the suffering per se. Doing it may seem ridiculous after some time. Praise Him for the benefits that the suffering can bring. Based on our earlier practice, we would have been able to think of some. If not, then praise Him that even though we may not know the benefits, we know He intended it for our good.

Do we question God or accept His sovereignty?

Question : Is it wrong to question God when we suffer?

Job demands answers from God.

(Job 23:4-5 NIV) I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. {5} I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say. (Job 7:20 NIV) If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?

This kind of questioning challenges God's sovereignty. It questions God's rationale for causing us to suffer.

God later spoke to Job and pointed out to him that he does not even understand the workings of His physical universe. How can he question God regarding the moral universe?

(Job 38:4-5 NIV) "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. {5} Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

(Job 38:33 NIV) Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?

Job later confessed that he was wrong to have questioned God.

(Job 40:1-5 NIV) The LORD said to Job: {2} "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" {3} Then Job answered the LORD: {4} "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. {5} I spoke once, but I have no answer-- twice, but I will say no more."

Job concluded that God is God and He has the right to do whatever He chooses with His creation. He also understood that man has no way to understand what God is thinking. Therefore, he had better just accept the plans of God.

(Job 11:7-9 NIV) "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? {8} They are higher than the heavens--what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave --what can you know? {9} Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.

Answer to previous question :

We should not question God but simply accept His sovereignty. Bear in mind that we cannot understand why God is doing certain things perhaps because we don't have the necessary experiences to understand, or we can only understand as things unfold at a later point in time. Perhaps it is something that man can never understand with his limited mental capabilities.
Although it is wrong to question God in the sense of challenging his authority, not all questioning is wrong. If we suspect that our suffering has to do with our sins, we should question God and ask Him to reveal those sins to us.

Discussion : Think of instances when we become bitter with God for something that had happened because we could not understand why God could have allowed it. Did we later understand it as we grow older or as time passes and the events unfold?

Do we resign to fate or work towards deliverance?

Question : If suffering is such a good thing, should we be asking God to deliver us?

Answer : There is nothing wrong in asking God to deliver. If the suffering is to teach us something (eg to correct us for our sins), once we have learnt it, we can ask God to deliver. Or the suffering may be to test us to see whether we call upon Him for help or look to other sources for solution.

Although Job at times exhibited symptoms of resigning to fate, he did appeal to God for help.

(Job 5:8 NIV) "But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.

Paul is another person who asked God to deliver him from a "thorn in the flesh". In fact he asked God as many as three times.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-8 NIV) To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. {8} Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

But simply calling upon God to deliver without doing anything ourselves is not enough. We should ask ourselves whether there is anything we could have done to help in the situation. It is wrong to just resign to fate. Sometimes, our suffering is so overwhelming that we resign to fate. Job was in such a situation. He realizes that if God is determined to inflict suffering on a man, he will not be able to escape it.

(Job 12:13-16 NIV) "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. {14} What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man he imprisons cannot be released. {15} If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. {16} To him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are his.

Many people also have this feeling of hopelessness in their suffering. When you view a situation as hopeless, you will not do anything about it.

Job wished that he could die so as not to have to endure suffering. Wishing to die is one form of resigning to fate.

(Job 6:8-9 NIV) "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, {9} that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!

Many people have taken this view and chosen to commit suicide as a way to end their suffering. They fail to realize that when they commit suicide they simply transfer the suffering to their loved ones.

It is easy for us to concentrate on the hopelessness of the situation and resign to fate. Many people are suffering in their present circumstances e.g. job and still do not want to do anything about it because they concluded that there is nothing that can be done to change the situation. Yet God wants us to persevere in the midst of our suffering and look for a way out.

(2 Thessalonians 1:4 NIV) Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Do we resent it or make the best use of it?

(Job 7:11 NIV) "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

In the midst of his suffering, Job could not see anything good that can come out of it. He was unlike Paul who could rejoice despite the fact that God did not remove his "torn in the flesh" because he knew that in the midst of his weakness God's strength might be manifested. The difference in perspective is of paramount importance. If we focus only on the bad points, we will do nothing but resent it. But if we focus on the good points, we can actually make some good out of it. There are always two ways to look at a situation. It’s like calling the glass half empty or half full.

There was a story about two salesmen who were sent to India to sell shoes. They arrived at the country and to their amazement no one was wearing any shoes. The first salesman called the office and said, "I have wasted my time coming here. No one here wears shoes." The second salesman called back and said in excitement, "No one here has bought any shoes yet. The market potential is huge!" What do we choose to focus on when we are suffering?

For example, we may be inflicted with an illness that will force us to be bed-ridden for few weeks. If we focus on the bad points, we will resent the fact that our work will pile up at the office or that we will incur additional expenses. If we try deliberately to come up with the good points, we may be positively surprised that this may be a good time to quiet down and focus on our relationship with God. It may also be a good opportunity to spend more time with the family instead of being always in the office. Ask God to reveal to us always the good points in our suffering. Paul probably did because God revealed to him that in his weakness, God's strength could be manifested even more. When he realized the good point, he could rejoice. Let's meditate about the good points in our situation. Asking friends would also help, especially if they have the Christian perspective.

Once we have identified the positive points, we can then work towards it. Instead of wasting time brooding in the hospital room that our work is piling time, we could actually use the time to study and Bible and pray.

Another way to benefit from our suffering is to not let a suffering pass without questioning deep down if it was inflicted on us because of some sin. If we don't ask ourselves this question, we may end up suffering needlessly and for a prolonged period because we have not corrected the situation.

While Job denied that he had sinned, he asked God to search his heart nonetheless to see if he had missed out anything.

(Job 13:23 NIV) How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin.

Do we tell God our problems or do we keep it to ourselves?

Job complained to God in the midst of his suffering.

(Job 7:11 NIV) "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Question : Is it wrong to complain to God about our problems?

There are two types of complaining. One type assumes that the person we complain to has done us wrong leading to our suffering. Another type objectively tells God our problems and asks Him to help us out. It does not contain negative feelings towards God. Job's complaints seem to be of the first type.

The Bible does not encourage us to keep silent about our problems. It teaches us to speak it out to God, as long as there are no negative feelings towards God or no anger that God has done us harm.

(Psalms 50:14-15 NIV) Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, {15} and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me."

(Psalms 91:14-15 NIV) "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. {15} He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

​Summary of responses towards suffering

​Wrong responsesWhy it is wrongRight responses
​Become angry with God.​God intends it for our good. We always get what we deserve.​Praise God.
​Question God as to why these things are happening to us.​We have no capacity to understand what God is doing.​Accept God's sovereignty.
​Resign to fate.​We are not exercising faith in God to deliver. We are not trying our best.​Ask God to deliver. Work towards deliverance ourselves.
​Focus on the bad points.​Everything that happens to us, God intends for our good. Therefore there are always good points.​Focus on the good points. Work to make them happen.
​Keep the problems to ourselves.​God cares and wants us to call upon Him.​Call on God to deliver.

Personal application

What suffering are you going through right now? If none, think of a recent suffering. How did you react? Ask yourselves those questions above. Have you been responding correctly to God's suffering?

WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO
Accuse him

Job's friends saw that he was suffering and concluded that he must have sinned.

(Job 22:5-10 NIV) Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? {6} You demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you stripped men of their clothing, leaving them naked. {7} You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry, {8} though you were a powerful man, owning land-- an honored man, living on it. {9} And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. {10} That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you,

The Lord was angry with what Job's friends did and originally wanted to punish them severely.

(Job 42:7-8 NIV) After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. {8} So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." That does not mean that we should not tell someone that his suffering may be the result of sin. Many times our suffering are indeed caused by sins and a rebuke from a fellow Christian is often needed to bring us back on the right path. However, it is wrong to insist that sin is the only reason for suffering and to accuse someone of sin simply because he is suffering.

It is also important to look for an appropriate time to tell someone his mistakes even though you are convinced that the mistake is the cause of his suffering. Telling the person when you have not first established an atmosphere of trust and concern can be easily seen to be judgmental and turn the person off from going to you for help.

Nag at him

(Job 16:1-3 NIV) Then Job replied: {2} "I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! {3} Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?

It is tempting to offer tons of advice to someone who is suffering. Yet what that person needs more is a listening ear. Giving advice has its rightful place but not at the expense of listening. Let the suffering person speak first.

Think lightly of the situation

(Job 17:12 NIV) These men turn night into day; in the face of darkness they say, 'Light is near.'

(Job 16:4 NIV) I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you.

It is easy to remain objective if we are not the person suffering. The last thing the suffering person needs is someone who offers superficial advice without having demonstrated to understand the situation and sympathize with the suffering person.

Exalt yourself above him

(Job 19:5 NIV) If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me,

Never put a person down just because he is suffering. This will add further injury to the suffering person.

RESPONSE TO SOMEONE WHO IS SUFFERING

Discussion : Share an experience you had with someone who is suffering. What did you do which is right/wrong?

How do we respond to someone who is suffering?

Comfort him

(Job 2:11 NIV) When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

One way to comfort a person is to provide hope in the situation. For example, if we go to a hospital to visit a sick person, usually we will say, "Don't worry. You are going to be alright." When a person is suffering, it is unlikely that he will be in the frame of mind to see anything positive. In fact he will often see the situation to be more negative than it actually is. This is when an objective person, or better yet a person with faith, can look beyond the negatives and provide a glimpse of the positiveness of the situation. However, avoid superficial remarks that nobody thinks we mean.

Be with him

(Job 2:13 NIV) Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

When a suffering person knows that someone is there with them, it makes it more bearable. It is important to constantly keep in contact with someone who is suffering to provide encouragement. The person's thoughts may easily run wild with suicidal thoughts unless these are checked constantly by people around him.

Listen to him

Job's friends failed to do this.

(Job 6:26 NIV) Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind?

Remember that when a suffering person asks to talk to you, it is usually not to hear your advice; it is to have you hear his sorrows. Talking things out alone can make one feel better. So when you meet someone who is suffering, do give him time to talk and let off steam.

Sympathize him

Job's friends originally intended to go and sympathize with him. But somehow they failed.

(Job 2:11 NIV) When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

Job rebuked his friends for failing to do this.

(Job 19:21 NIV) "Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.

When we meet someone who is suffering, try to put ourselves in his shoes to see what he is going through. Think of how we would have felt if we have gone through it ourselves. If we fail to do this, it is easy to offer words of encouragement that are actually empty on the inside. It is also easy to pass judgment like "Why didn't you do this" or "You should have done this" when it is actually hard for a person in that position to do such things.