When hard times come, others usually have a ready word of advice at the tip of their tongue. Sometimes this “friendly counsel” is the last thing on earth that we want to hear. When hard times come to others, do you have a few words of quick counsel ready for them, tell them what they need to do or should have done in the exact same way you hate so much when you’re on the receiving end?
A Friend of Job
Most people know the story of Job or at least have a vague idea about the gist of it. Job was a godly man who served the Lord and then Satan tried to shake his faith by throwing all kinds of disaster and tragedy at him. Naturally some of Job’s friends set out to explain the situation to him.
The first friend’s name was Eliphaz and he basically told Job that he had asked for all of this trouble by being so pious and holier-than-thou. Resentful much? Well, apparently there were frenemies back in the Old Testament too.
Yes, and Eliphaz goes on to say, “But as for me, I would seek God. I would commit my cause to God…Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects. Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” Job 5:8 & 17.
There it is, the “If I were you” and the “Don’t be so surprised and upset; you’re only getting what you deserve.” Eliphaz thinks Job must have done something to deserve all the trouble, that it must have been sent by God to chastise him, and sets about instructing him on what to do. Yes, Eliphaz is a great comfort, no doubt.
The second friend’s name was Bildad. He seemed to think that Job’s children died because they had sinned and that God was not helping Job because he had sinned.
In Job 8:4, Bildad says, “If your children have sinned against him, He has delivered them into the hand of their disobedience.” And in verse 6, he adds, “If you were pure and upright, surely now he would awaken for you, and make the habitation of your righteousness prosperous.”
Can’t you just feel the love?
Job’s third friend was named Zophar. He seemed to think that Job shouldn’t attempt to understand God’s ways and he should petition God if he would get his heart right.
“Can you fathom the mystery of God? Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” Job 11:7
“If he passes by, or confines, or convenes a court, then who can oppose him? For he knows false men. He sees iniquity also, even though he doesn’t consider it. An empty-headed man becomes wise when a man is born as a wild donkey’s colt. If you set your heart aright, stretch out your hands toward him.” Job 11:10-13
Yes, I’m sure that made Job feel a whole heap better.
An Ear to Hear
While in some cases such words may be called for, Job’s friends didn’t understand his situation and they certainly didn’t encourage him very well. Sometimes when those we care about are going through a tough time, we may not even know what to say to them. In such cases, we should pray for God to give us wisdom and the right words to say to them.
Maybe we should just pray with them or it may be that the right answer is something so simple as quoting some encouraging passages of scripture such as Numbers 6:24-26, “‘Yahweh bless you, and keep you. Yahweh make his face to shine on you, and be gracious to you. Yahweh lift up his face toward you, and give you peace.’”
At other times we shouldn’t say anything at all.
As Ecclesiastes 3:7 states there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is just keep quiet and listen. Sometimes the best thing we can give a person is a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear.
Lord, when others are hurting,
Give us wisdom to know,
Grant us words of comforting,
And encouragement to show.
“Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11