Sometimes being silent is the best option. Have any of you ever tried to comfort someone in their grief or distress and been told that you didn't help at all? I have, and it is not a pleasant feeling. Have you ever been "comforted" and said to your friend that they were no help at all? I think we've all been there. And wouldn't you know, that in one of the oldest books of the bible we see that Job has been there too. No matter what we've been through or are going through, we can always find an example in God's Word to match our situation.
Do you remember Job? In the first few chapters of the book of Job, he lost everything due to the results of a little dialog between God and Satan. The result: Job faced adversity. More than his fair share. His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar heard about his calamities and came together to comfort him. At least their hearts were in the right place. And they didn't do a bad job ... at first.
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:13)
What happened after the seventh day? Job opened his mouth and made himself vulnerable to his friends by telling them that he wished he would never have been born (Job 3). I suppose this was seen by his friends as a solicitation for advice because soon after, they seized the opportunity to speak. Without going into all of the details about the conversation that ensued, let's just get to the point. I don't think that Job was comforted by his well meaning friends. From Job 16:1-2 we see
Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.
Ouch. I think I'm having a flashback to one of my meager attempts at providing comfort. There is a lot to learn from this passage, isn't there? Here are my life application points:
1) Fixing does not equate to comforting. How many times do we try to fix someone's problem when all we really should be doing is listening? We all want to be helpful, but there is a time to solve and a time to sit. Job's friends didn't get reproved when they were just sitting with their friend. Am I comfortable in the silence?
2) "Knowing it all" will get us nowhere. Job's friends sure thought they had all of the solutions didn't they? They even thought they knew why the horrendous things had happened to Job. But were they right? Sure, there were some truths to the things they said, but in Job's circumstance they didn't apply. Oh, we need to pray before we speak. How often do I pray before I speak and why do I really offer advice?
3) Listening is the optimal response - for all. Listening is a challenge sometimes because of our pride. Did Job's friends ask any questions of him to see what was really going on before they offered all of their words? I didn't see any. Should Job have listened to what his friends said anyway? I think so. Listening well will always produce favorably results. Had his friends really learned about Job and his situation, their words may have been different. If Job could really listen to his friends in his grief - which I know sometimes isn't possible - he might gather some truths whereby he could examine his life. How am I listening and learning to be a better friend?
Until next time...