“The mouth of the Godly person gives wise advice …” Proverbs 10:31
We all know people that make themselves constantly available to warn others about what could go wrong. Buying a home? You might get termites. Having a child? It might get a birth defect. Taking a walk in the park? You might get mugged. Breathing? Watch out for those airborne viruses! If you meet this person you won’t need to seek their advice… it is usually offered unsolicited… so run!
When I offer advice, I tend to err on the side of hope. I tend to think things will work out for the best, even when I don’t have any justification or indication that it will. If you read today’s passage you will see that my approach isn’t any better. Sometimes a harsh reality has to be revealed. Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke around his neck to tell his fellow Israelites that they were going to be future captives of Babylon. The prophet Hananiah in dramatic fashion tore the yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to pieces. He exclaimed: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
I’m sure the room broke out in a chorus of “Amens.” It was what everyone wanted to hear. The worst was over. Freedom was just around the corner. It sounded like such godly advice. Only problem? God has said no such thing.
We need to be careful putting words in God’s mouth. We help no one by wishing away coming hardship.
So what do we do when a friend asks for advice? First of all, listen closely to your friend. Don’t launch into a “everything is going to be alright” speech until you have heard the entire story. Secondly, listen closely to God. Godly counsel begins with a daily conversation with the Almighty. How can you presume to know the mind of God if you never talk with God? Third, offer new ways of searching for a solution… not necessarily “the” solution. People have a way of doing what they want anyway. Why not steer them toward resolution instead of dragging them there. Finally, support them in prayer and check back with them. Knowing that you haven’t forgotten their plight reminds them that someone indeed cares. Remind them that God remembers them too.
Faced with personal difficulties, I still err on the side of hope. But lately I’m less quick to wish the yoke away. Sometimes it is the yoke of Jesus that I’m feeling… and He promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden… though still present… would be light.