How do we counsel the hurt? Perhaps this isn’t something you have ever thought yourself worthy of, perhaps something you view as beyond your field of ministry. However, have you ever considered it to be a ministry when you comfort a sad friend?
Being a friend involves much more than what would be on the mere ‘job description’. It can be multi-faceted and challenging, but an adventure nevertheless. But for a friendship to be true, it cannot always just be on the sunny days and holidays; it is true friendship when you stick it out through the tough and trying times.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
We see Job being surrounded with some of his closest friends throughout the entire book of Job. Friends who we would think are always there to have his back; however, this plays out rather contrary to what we might have thought.
It starts off well when they join him in his brokenness. This is an excellent example of how to comfort a hurting friend. Weeping with a fellow brother or sister is one of the best ways to share in their hurt with them.
“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was”. – Job 2:11-13 (NIV)
The saying is true to it’s word in this instance, “silence is golden”. Wisdom is required in this setting as to determine when to speak and when it is better to remain silent.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)
Sad to say, but this might have been the only correct reaction of these friends. They weren’t satisfied to sit in silence, they felt like something needed to be added. After the 7 days of mourning, Eliphaz speaks in chapter 4.
“As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” – Job 4:8
He is the first to throw a punch to Job’s feeble heart.
Trap 1: Reacting in the Flesh.
This leads us to say foolish things. We are tempted to look at a situation and try to assess it through our human knowledge. This way we step in the trap of judging by what we can see or assume – this might be the worst mistake we can make. This adds to the hurt and doesn’t help our friend at all.
Trap 2: Own Advice
Another pitfall we so often fall into is to give our own advice and attempt to help a friend with our own resources and knowledge. This is a sticky spot to be in as you give yourself out to be the solution to the problem, as well as to have the answers. This is contrary to what God wants. Job’s friends were being a false representation of what God’s heart towards Job was. They were making the situation so much worse. Job needed to defend himself in his agony before his ‘mocking friends’ (Job 30:1).
Our ideas are useless and futile. We are to point to Jesus in every situation we face, we are to lead our hurting friend to Jesus’ feet. It is important to know and acknowledge that He is the only solution, the only One that brings healing. You cannot promise to be the solution nor can you promise to never let your friend down. The Lord is the only true and faithful One at all times and in every situation. We are all human and will disgust and hurt one another even though we try our best not to.
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in. From this time forth, and even forevermore.”
– Psalm 121 (NKJV)
Trap 3: Multitude of Words
These three friends were not shy to share their opinions. All the while, their counsel was causing Job more agony and was busy angering God. They were arrogant and free with their speech. This added to their foolishness. Don’t lead your friend to doubt what God has already promised them. Job’s friends were close to crossing that line. They continually probed him to doubt what he knew to be true about God and His faithfulness. This is not an impossibility when we keep talking, even when the time for it is over. It is never a good idea to continually try to babble on just to have something to say.
“…a time to be silent and a time to speak.” – Ecclesiastes 7:3b (NIV)
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
– Provers 10:19 (NKJV)
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19 (NIV)
Trap 4: Blaming God
Joining a struggling friend in accusing God. Blaming the Lord for what is wrong in a situation is not right. God is sovereign – what He does is always right, even when we don’t feel that way or cannot see how it is in any way. He remains God, and we are man; He is in control, and we are not. (As we have seen in a prior post, The Sake of Suffering.) (Add link to the Sake of Suffering)
NEVER allow a friend to blame God for what is hurting. Rather remind them of God’s goodness and His faithfulness. This is not to say we deny the pain or we fantasize that it will be sunshine and roses, rather it is pointing them to where their help comes from and taking their eyes off their overwhelming situation. The saying goes, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” Believe that dear friend.
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” – Job 12:13 (NIV)
Because Job’s friends acted in the flesh, they were rebuked by God.
“After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.” – Job 42:7-9 (NIV)
This just shows, yet again, how important it is to ask for wisdom when we counsel a hurting friend. This can only be given by God, so it requires you to seek Christ’s will faithfully in what to do with the wounds of your friends. I don’t know about you, but I would rather want to be part of the healing process as opposed to adding to the hurt and burden that a friend might already experience.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
We are faced with ‘counselling opportunities’ more than we might know. Remember to turn to your great Helper and Counsellor, before trying to do anything out of yourself.
“And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
– Isaiah 9:6b (NLT)