I’m often tongue-tied when I attend a funeral or visit someone in the hospital. As soon as I open my mouth, it concerns me that I’m sounding like one of Job’s friends. They were better comforters when they kept their mouths shut rather than when they opened them (Job 2:11-13). Their advice and consolation to Job sounded like the exact words I might have spoken. They argued forcefully and their arguments seemed so pious, leading Philip Yancey to comment: “If today we had only Job 3–37, we would judge the three friends as the true heroes of the book.” But God was angry with them (Job 42:7).
So, it occurred to me to simply keep my mouth shut around the grieving and hurting. But that misses the point.
God was not angry with Job’s friends because they opened their mouths but because they hadn’t spoken accurately about Him (Job 42:7-8). If you and I want to be better comforters, we need to know Jesus better and refrain from attempting to explain the inexplicable.
Sometimes we think that by offering explanations it will alleviate people’s suffering. But there are some answers that only God can provide. When we try to play God, we confound more than we help. In such instances, it’s wiser to humble ourselves before the Lord and affirm with the sufferer that we may not understand God’s ways, but we can trust in His wisdom, power, and love. That was how God answered Job in chapters 38 to 41. He didn’t offer any explanation. He simply reminded Job of who He is.
Oswald Chambers suggests: “The biggest thing you can do for those who are suffering is not to talk platitudes, not to ask questions, but to get into contact with God, and the ‘greater works’ will be done by prayer.”
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 28:1-14
Read Psalm 119:50, Isaiah 50:4, and Philemon 1:7 for additional ideas on how to become a better comforter.
Who is someone you know who needs comfort? How can you lovingly come alongside this person?