If you have ever triggered someone with your words, then you can relate to Zophar’s response to Job. Something Job said so aggravated Zophar that he didn’t even hear Job clearly. Zophar claims Job has said something like, “My beliefs are flawless, and I am pure in your sight.” (Job 11:4). Of course, Job said nothing of the sort in yesterday’s reading. Job insisted God alone is righteous. Thus, Zophar is a great example of failing to fully understand a sufferer or the frustrated.
We could call Zophar’s response an example of “talking past” someone. Zophar is responding to an argument which Job never makes, with claims Job doesn’t deny. How is such an approach helpful? The truth is, we know Zophar is not helpful at all. At the same time, we make similar mistakes when we are not careful to listen to the concerns or frustrations of those around us.
It doesn’t matter whether someone is struggling with doubts about God, frustrated with us, or trying to make a point; we all should do our best, for the relationship’s sake, to attend to what our loved ones actually say rather than what we imagine they are saying.