Job 3 contains Job’s absolutely gut-wrenching lament. Losses and suffering have piled upon him until his heart splits and sorrow and anguish flow out from him in words of despair. Eliphaz is the first of Job’s friends to reply. E. S. P. Heavenor comments on his words:
“…while Eliphaz is the most sympathetic of Job’s physicians, he is still a physician who fails. There is no acknowledgment of the extraordinary submission to God Job has already shown (e.g. in 1:21 and 2:10). There is no clear word of sympathy in all his words. Strahan refers to him as ‘a theologian chilled by his creed’. He resembles a commander urging soldiers who have been exhausted by struggling against fearful odds to still more resolute endeavor, without a word of praise of what has already been accomplished.”1
“Do you intend to reprove my words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?”
E. S. P. Heavenor writes:
“His friends have made the mistake of dealing with the wild, whirling speeches of a desperate man as if every word was cool and calculated.”2
It can be a difficult task to learn to listen and discern whether or not we are hearing words for the wind. Our own suffering and knowledge of our own weakness and dependence on God’s grace help us to do this. You have to get to know someone, listen with love and pray with intensity. You have to be willing to go into someone’s valley and walk together, lending an arm over the rough rocks in the dark.
Listen with love for God and for the one who is speaking. Listen with prayer, asking God for the wisdom not to break the battered reed. Let words of despair go with the wind, and with love, give words of care and consolation.
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1, 2E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, third ed., D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, London 1970) 425–426, 426.