Who can advise you as to how you should respond to a friend who is going through a difficult trial? Who better than the Biblical character Job, who knew something about it? In Job 6:14 he speaks a word for those of us who would be comforters to our friends:
There are a number of important lessons in the Book of Job, but perhaps none more poignant and applicable to us as how to (and how NOT to!) minister to our friends in their times of difficulty. In this verse Job expresses the hope of the sufferer; what he wants from his friends in those times:
“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.”
Job teaches us that people who are suffering want “kindness” more than anything else. They do not want a “sermon” — especially like the one he received from his so-called “friend” Eliphaz, who basically told him that he must have deserved everything that happened to him! Even if you’ve never been in a situation like Job’s, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how it would make you feel. Yet amazingly there are often those who believe that they must act as some kind of “self-appointed prophet” to judge the suffering person, and let them know where they must have gone wrong. Job reminds us that this is not helpful to a person who is suffering, and will probably not be received well.
Instead he teaches us that people who are suffering want “kindness.” He reminds us that we have the opportunity to help strengthen people’s faith in times of trial, and that the words you say, and the attitudes you express, have the potential to help the suffering person continue to walk with God (“so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.”)
Among its many and powerful lessons, the Book of Job reminds us to carefully weigh our words to those in trials. Encourage, do not condemn. May those we know who suffer, one day remember how you helped them to persevere in their faith in God during their trial. Show them the kindness Job says that a person desires from his friend.