A friend or spouse loses their job or a loved one. They get in a car accident or are diagnosed with a deadly disease. What is your response? Is your response helping or hindering that person? Do you simply say, “I will be praying for you?” or “God’s faithful and you will make it through.”? Do you sit in silence with them? Or perhaps you go into some long speech on the will and goodness of God or even try to tell them how to “fix” their problem? Tragedy strikes everyday to people all around us. We need to be prepared for godly responses of help and not hindrance.
The ultimate examples in God’s Word of both help and hindrance can be found in the Old Testament book of Job. Job is struck with unspeakable tragedy and is “comforted” by his spouse and three of his friends. In Job 1:13-19 we see Job lose his servants, his livestock and all of his children all in one night. Immediately, Job is given to grief and agony. In this grief he is struck again, but this time by foul disease that ravages his body. This put Job into even greater depression. This would be the breaking point for all of us. Think of the trials we have gone through. Our response to this would be deep and utter pain and depression. We could only hope to be like Job in the midst of any of our suffering to be able to say “blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Let’s look at the hindrance responses that Job encounters. Job 2:9 Job’s wife enters the picture with her ever so subtle take on the situation when she says “Curse God and die.” She is basically telling Job that her life and his life would be better off if he were dead. Yet knowing that he has done nothing to have God destroy him, she tells him to be blasphemous and curse God so that He will put Job out of his misery. What would that do to us if in the midst of trials our spouse came to us and said just die already? Not quite a loving response. We are to put our spouse above all others. We are to love them as they are a gift from God and when they are in pain share in that pain with them. Comfort does not come in the form of saying “Ya your life sucks, time to end it.” Coming alongside and bringing your spouse to faith and godliness does not include telling them to Curse God. Now, obviously we know she is in pain as well and isn’t seeing through her own pain into what reality and godliness is. We sometimes have to look past our own pain in order to fully help others, especially our spouse.
This person is the one who God has given to you to make it through this world together and that takes great selflessness. We must put aside pride and even hate at the time (say if the pain was the fault of the other) and come together as one to grieve and support. These times, if done in godliness, can lead to a growth of the relationship instead of a chasm.
Job’s friends have several examples of hindrance responses. After hearing Job’s long lament in the third chapter, each of his three friends take turns basically giving Job their “take” on his situation and the WHY of his turmoil. They are all convinced that Job is in great sin and needs to repent in order for his life to be turned around. They are tired of his moaning and grieving and tell him to buck up, admit your sin and move on. Even amongst Job’s rebuttals to them that he longs for an audience with God and that he would repent all the things if God will just tell him what he has done to deserve his pain, Job’s friends continue to plague him. There is this type of wrongful berating of Job during chapters 4-11. Job tries to respond in his pain, but they each continued to take a turn to hinder him. They rely more on what their life has shown or what they have been told than truth. They rely on their own opinion rather than on God’s ways. Their intent was good to want to help their friend, but they ended up just making Job more confused and upset.
So what do helpful responses look like?
Job’s friends start off well. In vs. 11-13 of chapter 2 we gain great insight to what true help can look like in certain circumstances. They heard of Job’s affliction, came to his side and for 7 days sat and silently grieved WITH him. Sometimes a circumstance needs no words at all. I find that a hug can be the most humbling of comforts. Shared sobs and just the comfort of someone’s hand can be all that is needed.
In Job 38 and on we see the meat of what true help is like. God comes and shows us that help comes only in His form. We need to abhor the thoughts of distrust against God and KNOW that God is with us and will never leave us. We need to cling to the attributes of God and remember He is unfailing. Yet what does that look like for us? We know God will not come and talk to us as He did with Job, but the truths are the same. As a friend or a spouse to someone in pain, we need to come in silence and in comfort. Then we need to come in remembrance of who God is. Not just that He is faithful. Many times in trials when we can’t see how it works for good, we just need to trust. So we need to not reprimand our loved ones for being in grief, but grieve with them. Remind them of God’s love and say we can trust it and leave it at that. There is no need to berate someone with the truth, because many times they will already know it. Sometimes a hand to hold, a friend to cry with, a soothing word that God will always be there or a heartfelt prayer is all we need.
So make sure that when you are “comforting” someone that you are there to give comfort, truth, and guidance ~ not your own opinion or judgment. This is not the time for that. Make sure what you are saying is God’s Truth and not just your opinion or your own convictions. Be a friend who loves at all times, someone who can come alongside and bear the burden and not make the burden greater.
About the author
Kristen Wells has a bachelors of science degree in biblical counseling and is the author of The Warring Soul. She resides in California with her wonderful husband, Greg, her son, Justin, and her daughter, Katie.
Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading, knitting, playing board games, substitute teaching at her kid’s school and mentoring youth. When she is not attending to the needs of her family, you can find Kristen curled up with a good book and a cup of coffee or fellowshipping with friends. Above all, she lives to exemplify Christ in her everyday life and help others to find their way out of darkness.