Why was this so important to them? Because Job’s pain challenged their faith. His losses, they concluded must be his fault because such extreme suffering did not fit their understanding of a just God. They wanted to believe that they could control their destiny (i.e., control God) by behaving properly. It was important, therefore, that Job be made responsible for his own calamity, otherwise they would have to face the fact that they were powerless to keep such tragedy from striking them. Job’s circumstances challenged everything they wanted to believe about God, and that challenge frightened them.

May Job’s words describing his friends not be said of us:

A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. (Job 6:14-17)

More recently, events like the senseless massacre at Virginia Tech in April, 2007, confronted the world with the need to dig up reasons for the deaths of so many innocent people. Job's friends needed to answer that question for their own good rather than Job's. In our own grief journey, we concluded that there is no reason good enough for a parent’s heart and that is why God doesn’t give us answers other than, “Trust me.” Along with the search for answers, reporters, especially those who were parents themselves, frequently commented, “How does a parent survive the death of their child?” From our own walk in darkness, we learned that it is only by leaning into the pain and wrestling to reconcile God’s love with His sovereignty that we found a new level of normal. We discovered that God’s channel of grace is often the biblical encouragement of others: actions and words (sometimes deemed insignificant by others) designed to help turn our heart toward Him.

As we pray for families of who endure tragedy, ask God to send encouragement that will help turn their hearts toward His love and compassion and open their souls to the message of hope that only Christ can give.

Sharon W. Betters is Executive Director of MARK INC Ministries (www.markinc.org). She is the author of Treasures of Encouragement, Women Helping Women in the Church as well as Treasures in Darkness, A Grieving Mother Shares Her Heart. Both books are published by P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.