How then comfort you me in vain, seeing in your answers there remains falsehood?
The three bungling comforters are wasting their efforts, because they are not speaking the truth. Their misapprehension and misrepresentation vitiate all their good intentions.
I. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THOSE WHOM WE WOULD HELP.
1. By mixing with them. Job's friends took the first step. They travelled from their remote homes across the desert and came to see him. We can only help the miserable if we first go among them and see them with our own eyes. Much philanthropy fails by reason of distance and separation. We cannot know people till we are with them. Christ came down from heaven and lived among men.
2. By freedom from prejudice. Job's friends came with fixed notions. They only looked at Job through their coloured spectacles. We can never understand people till we throw aside all our preconceived notions about them and look at them as they are.
3. By sympathy. This must be insisted on over and over again. The lack of it was the chief cause of the failure of Job's friends. The presence of it is the first essential for understanding people.
II. TRUTH IS A PRIMARY CONDITION OF CONSOLATION. I. In regard to the sufferer. It is useless to ignore his sufferings, or to try to reason him into the belief that they do not exist. The attempt to help will be spoilt if we argue that what he knows to be undeserved is really his due. Any view that does not regard him as he is spoils all efforts to console.
2. In regard to the remedy. It is worse than useless to offer wrong remedies. The trite commonplaces of consolation are only irritants. Some of them are known to be false in fact. Others have not the ring of sincerity about them when repeated by the comforting friend. However true they have been once, they have ceased to bear any meaning that people believe in.
III. SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION IS CONDITIONED BY SPIRITUAL TRUTH.
1. In thought. We cannot console others with dogmas that we do not believe in ourselves. If we have no faith in Christ we cannot use the Name of Christ to heal the wounds of others. Unless we look forward to a future life it is vain for us to talk about the "many mansions" when we are trying to console others. There is a foolish notion that we should talk up to the maximum of orthodoxy, even though we do not live and think up to it. But this notion is only an excuse for cant, and nothing is more vexing to the sufferer than to be treated with cant. Let us say only what we believe.
2. In fact. Delusions cannot afford permanent consolations, They may soothe pain and alarm for the moment; but they cannot endure, and when the mistake of them is discovered the result will be a deeper despair than ever. If, however, we could succeed in lulling all distress on earth by means of a false hope, the consolation itself would be a most terrible calamity. The soul needs truth more than comfort. It is better to hear the painful truth now than at the great judgment. But there is another truth, one which gives real consolation - the truth of the gospel of Christ. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?