Read Job 4:2
If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? Yet who can keep from speaking?
• When is "good advice" best kept to yourself?
• Why is it never wise to offer unsolicited advice as you attempt to comfort someone who is hurting?
• What's the best way to comfort someone who is hurting?
Job's friends sat with him in silence and listened to his lament before God until Eliphaz found he could no longer hold his tongue.
He began by acknowledging the spiritual leadership Job had provided to others. We saw earlier how Job led his children, calling them to worship and offering sacrifices on their behalf. Eliphaz commended Job for teaching and encouraging many others as well.
Then the compliments became a rebuke. Eliphaz scolded Job for his reaction to his suffering. He reminded him to revere God and to hold fast to his integrity.
How do you think Job reacted to this advice? He probably wasn't too surprised. We humans are naturally curious, seeking explanations for the big and small events in our lives. Moreover, suffering brings out the temptation in us to offer advice.
In fact, these verses are just the beginning of a long section of verses in which Job's friends offer their explanations and advice for his situation. Their care and concern for Job motivated their speeches.
Good motivations, however, don't always produce good results. Instead, unsolicited advice or worthless explanations may compound suffering. It can't roll back time, nor can it bring back whatever was lost.
Depending on the nature of the advice, it may also make the sufferer feel guilty for the situation. For example, well-meaning congregants often encourage friends struggling with depression or anxiety that God will heal them if they just have faith, trust God more, or remove any unconfessed sin in their lives. What sounds like good advice and encouragement to the adviser actually comes across as condemnation for the depressed or anxious listener.
We can learn two important lessons from these truths. First when we are comforting someone who is hurting, we must choose our words carefully. We must be extra sensitive to how the person is feeling and how our words will sound to her or him at that moment.
When we are the ones hurting, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes even well-meaning friends may say things that deepen instead of ease the pain. Consciously choosing to let those words roll off of us rather than let them sink into our minds and spirits is the best approach.
Father, help me to remember to choose my words carefully when speaking with friends who are hurting. When others offer advice for my own pain, help me to remember that they do so from a kind heart. Amen.