Listen to Console

“Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.”
– Job 21:2 (NIV)

The Book of Job is a difficult one to read. The storyline is depressing. The back and forth conversation between Job and his friends is frustrating, and at times even infuriating. It is also a relatively long Book in the Hebrew Bible; and one that doesn’t start out with such a great vision of God’s care for those who love Him. If I am going to be completely honest here, I must reveal that I have only read the Book of Job once for a class, and really just skimmed over most of it. It has never been one that I have been drawn to or felt the need to study. However, since making a commitment to myself about a year ago to read the Bible all the way through completely, I am now to the point of reading at least one chapter of Job per day.

This morning, I happened upon the verse above, uttered by Job to his friends who have come to be with him after the trials of losing his family to horrific deaths, and then becoming physically afflicted himself. What struck me about it is that he utters it after his three friends have all judged him for his anger at God, not once, but twice each. His statement is so pure, so simple. Please, just listen to me! He doesn’t need a judge right now. He doesn’t a guide. All he needs is someone to listen to him.

There is something so validating that comes from a listening ear. They are few and far between, but there are people who have a gift for listening without preparing a response. You can see it in their eyes and the softness of their countenance as you speak to them. They are completely present to witness your experience, whether painful, joyful or somewhere in between. Often these people will not respond with words unless asked a specific question. Most times, they will simply nod or smile, or reach out to hold your hand. The “consolation” this type of listening brings is priceless.

While I am only halfway through the Book of Job, I think it is safe to say that his friends have missed the mark on listening. They have, however, helped me to see how frustrating it is to be in need of a listening and compassionate ear and then to be confronted only with judgment. Do I want to bring that type of frustration to the world, specifically to someone who is trusting me with their own story? How might I recognize Job’s friends in myself the next time someone is speaking to me about a problem in their life? I can only pray that the moment I feel the need to judge that person or tell them what to do to fix things I will remember Job’s plea: “Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you give me.”

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