November 01, 2023
It is a beautiful blessing to get wise, caring counsel. It’s particularly helpful when you’re in real trouble. A word spoken in the right way at the right time to a suffering friend is like a cup of cold water in the desert.
What about a wrong word at a wrong time? An unthinking, proud word given to a devastated soul? Someone who makes a quick evaluation and gives an incorrect assessment of your problem can not only lead you down a dangerous path, but can also debilitate your soul. They can be the human voice of the demonic accuser of the brethren.
Job, in the midst of the worst suffering, had not one but three of these guys! God would later put them in their place. But for a season, Job had to endure their calloused evaluations. Listen to one in Job 22:5:
“Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you, that He enters into judgment against you? Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities without end? (Job 22:4-5)
Eliphaz was so sure he had it right. There is only one reason that people suffer, he smugly surmised. It’s because they’ve sinned. He could see no other explanation for Job’s suffering, and he was incredibly self-assured about his “wise counsel.” He couldn’t wait to get to Job’s house and tell him what a sinner he was. Fools usually see only one possibility and are thrilled whenever they can pop off with their supposed wisdom.
He walked in on a man who was in profound suffering, sized up the situation with a quick, self-righteous, Phariseeical evaluation, and then leveled both barrels at Job.
The problem was, Eliphaz had not gotten this assessment from God. There was no one more righteous than Job. His godliness, in this case, was not the issue. God described him in glowing terms.
For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8). (1995)
If you really want to help people, listen to God. Humbly consider your own sins and what you would need to hear in a time of suffering. Combine any truth that needs to be shared with an overabundant dose of grace and love.
Be humble enough to realize there may be other options other than your own first evaluations. Think before you speak and, most importantly, pray before you speak, making sure that you have God’s evaluation. And if you’re not sure, reserve judgment until you hear from heaven. You could do more harm than good.
Your friend may need a dose of reality, but make sure it’s a word “good for edification, fit for the need of the moment that gives grace (enabling spiritual power) to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Job didn’t need these men’s armchair advice. He needed a word from God and a loving arm around his shattered shoulders. He could have used some authentic friends who were wise enough to simply sit and listen. Who were prayerful enough to ask God first before they put their mouths in gear.
Be a graceful, truthful, wise counselor. Even more than that, be a good, Spirit-filled friend. And pray that when you’re suffering, you will be surrounded by the same.
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