It’s hard to know what to say when someone is going through a hard time, but Job’s friends were totally useless when it came to encouraging him. A saying that comes to mind when I think about these friends of his is, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

As Christians, we should be the best people to have as friends, but sometimes in our desire to help another person, I think we can also be “miserable comforters.” In my experience, sometimes another’s comments can sound judgmental to the person who’s hurting. Job’s friends definitely thought that Job had sinned and therefore brought trouble on himself, so they continued to prod him to acknowledge what he’d done wrong and confess it, so that God would restore him to health and happiness. The reality was that Job had not sinned, so this counsel was useless.

Another challenge for us as Christian friends is that we are often emotionally distanced from someone who is suffering so that what we say comes across as uncaring. Job’s friends could not identify with what Job was experiencing and feeling because they had never gone through this sort of an ordeal. They reminded him of a lot of truths which he already knew, but which did not actually help him as much as expressions of love and care would have done. They were well-meaning but ineffective in their words!

Sometimes if we do not know what to say, it is best to say nothing! (The friends actually did this when they first showed up to “comfort” Job.) Or if we do say anything, to acknowledge that we cannot know what our suffering friend is feeling or experiencing. (Even if you have had a similar experience, I have learned, it still is not what they are going through!) Spending time with and listening to another in distress, praying and embracing if that helps, but being careful with words seems to mean more than anything else. May we all learn to be better encouragers in what we say and do!!

Father God, teach me to be a better comforter, tuned in to my suffering friend and to your Spirit in knowing what to say and do to encourage my Christian brother or sister in their time of need. Amen.

For Today: Imagine that you are Job going through the loss of everything that you held dear. What would you need from your friends in terms of words and expressions of caring? What would not be helpful or encouraging to hear?

Tags: encouragement Job 16 Job friendship
Photo Credit: Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash