(This 4-part study is Study #5 from the series, Studies From the Book of Job. You can access the other studies by clicking here.)
My son had only had his driver’s license for a few days when he had his first accident. He called me at work, visibly shaken. Praise God, he wasn’t hurt, and as he was the front car in a three car crash, there wasn’t even a scratch on the car. Unfortunately the middle and rear cars didn’t fare as well…
What did my son want from me when he called?
He wanted a loving ear to hear his story, to tell him it was all okay, to praise God with him that he and his friend weren’t hurt, that he wasn’t faulted for the accident, and that the car wasn’t damaged!
What did I do?
I believe my exact words went something like this: “What were you doing with the car when I didn’t know about it? Why were you driving a friend to lunch without asking my permission? You shouldn’t have even been at that intersection!”
Yes, friends, I’m ashamed to say that my first words did go something like this. And why not? I had every right to say those things. He hadn’t had my permission to be driving my car, or even to be going out for lunch with a friend, for that matter. It was, after all, my car, and he was a minor who has just gotten his license!
“I’m sorry, mom,” he said.
And I could tell he truly was.
“I’m so sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
And with each apology I could hear the anguish and fear deepening and spreading. Maybe those things needed to be said. I don’t know. But my timing and tact could certainly have been improved upon.
I think you all can relate. Something bad happens, something that you likely could have prevented, and you hear, “I told you so!” Or “If only you hadn’t been…” or “It’s your own fault!”
And yes, all of those things are likely true. But is that what really needs to be said at that moment? This is the lesson we can learn from Job today:
“I have heard many such things;
Miserable comforters are you all!
Shall words of wind have an end?
Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:2-3 NKJV)
“But please, come back again, all of you,
For I shall not find one wise man among you.
My days are past,
My purposes are broken off,
Even the thoughts of my heart.
They change the night into day;
‘The light is near,’ they say, in the face of darkness.
If I wait for the grave as my house,
If I make my bed in the darkness…” (Job 17:10-13 NKJV)
You can’t really blame Job for saying these things. As you read through the accusations of Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz, they do not hesitate to tell Job he has brought this all on himself! What kind of a comforter is that?
The same kind of a comforter that I was when my son called my after his accident! A really bad one!
There is a time for lecturing, and there is a time for molding character. But it needs to be done in the right way, at the right time, using the right words, because if it isn’t, one of four things will happen:
1. Like my son, the person will just sink lower and lower into depression;
2. Like Job, the person will just stop listening to what you have to say;
3. The person will wish you would go away; or
4. Some combination of the above three!
So what is the right way to console?
There are probably many “right” ways, but Job gives us an idea of the kind of consolation he would have appreciated:
“I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul’s place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (Job 16:4-5 NKJV)
Job didn’t want to hear about how his sin had brought him to this place! First of all, it wasn’t true, secondly, he didn’t believe it, even if it had been true, and thirdly, he needed to be held up and strengthened! He needed their comfort to relieve his own grief!
He goes on to say, “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity!” (Job 19:21 NIV)
When we are put in the place of speaking to someone who has suffered greatly, even if it is because of something they have brought on themselves, let’s remember Job. Let’s build them up. Let’s strengthen them. Let’s let our lips comfort them and relieve their grief! Let’s have pity on them!
As I talked to my son on the phone that day, I did eventually realize that my words were only making things worse. So I tried to repair the damage. I said something like this, “Okay, I think you get my point, and as long as you promise me you’ll never take the car again without asking my permission, I won’t say anything more about it!”
I could hear the relief in his voice as he jumped in quickly to say, “I promise, mom!”
Then I did what I should have done in the first place: I prayed for God to guide my words, and then I obeyed when He told me to not say anything at all, but simply to listen! My son was eternally grateful.
There would have been a proper time and place for the lecture, but at that moment in time, it was neither the time nor the place. And whoever it is who has turned to you in their time of trouble will also be eternally grateful if you follow the advice given by Job instead of following the example of his friends!
Please join us next week for Other Lessons From Job, Part 3: The Correct Way to Administer Correction.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the rest of this mini-series, please click here.)