Many of us shrink back when someone asks for counsel. What if we say something wrong? And what happens when something catastrophic occurs… such as what happened just days ago in an Arizona grocery store parking lot? We are tongue-tied trying to explain… to comfort. Are we wise enough to counsel anyone when their world crashes in?
The world is filled with inferior counselors. Job had the cream of the crop: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Job was not impressed at all with the bedside manner of these incompetent physicians: 14-18 (The Message Bible) “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them. But my brothers are fickle as a gulch in the desert— one day they’re gushing with water From melting ice and snow cascading out of the mountains, But by midsummer they’re dry, gullies baked dry in the sun. Travelers who spot them and go out of their way for a drink end up in a waterless gulch and die of thirst.”
Job goes further to say: “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom!” (Job 13:5 NIV) Perhaps there is wisdom here for those of us that seek to bring healing balm to those hurting in our lives. Silence can sometimes heal the hurt that words cannot touch.
James Rogers was a young pastor not trained to face the grief experience before him. The Senior Pastor of the church in which he was youth minister had just lost his wife and three children in a car accident. The other driver was going over 75-90 miles per hour. Pastor Rogers wrote of the period following:
“I wanted to offer encouragement and support, but how? What did I really have to offer? I found myself just listening. As he went through the grieving process, I tried to learn from the experience. He shared that one of the results of a dramatic separation like his is to feel uneasy about other existing relationships. Since he had lost those closest to him, he needed affirmation that others would not be leaving as well. Yet again, I wonder if my inexperience actually allowed God to use me more effectively. If I’d had more training, I might have “known just enough to be dangerous.” I might have tried to be a more active counselor and said something really dumb.
Jerry shared of some of the hurtful things that well-meaning people said. Some suggested, “God must have wanted them more than you.” Jerry said he wanted to scream, “God has the angels, the apostles, and all the saints of history, so why would God really need my wife and children?” Others offered, “It’s just like what Job went through, so you can make it too.” But, Jerry observed, that was cold comfort. Two different people actually approached Jerry to probe what sin his wife and children had committed. Now, that does sound like Job’s experience with his “friends.”
Jerry didn’t mind silence with people. He just valued their presence and confirmation that the friendship still existed. (James Rodgers, “A Pastor’s Grief Observed” Leadership Journal, Fall 2006, pp. 108-109.)
There is an old book title which said: “Don’t just say something, stand there.” That can sometimes be the most profound thing we can do… stand with your friend and keep your careless words in check.