When I see people struggling, hurting, suffering, I want to help them. I am a fixer. I want to fix and make things better. It seems to be a “thing” in my family—a need I am pretty sure I inherited from my daddy, who is Mr. Fix-It!
On the other hand, when I am struggling, I find myself wanting someone who will listen to me, encourage me and want to help me. I have a select few friends and family members I will reach out to in those difficult times. Sometimes those who love me and know me well, will recognize that something isn’t quite right and will offer their support unasked.
Think about Job for a moment.
Job, of Old Testament times, the blameless and holy man, who suffered unspeakable pain and loss at the hands of the Accuser. Job, who had done nothing in his life to deserve such atrocities, lost everything—his home, his family, his property. And then, he was left with his body covered in horrible boils. And yet, Job remained faithful to God. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15 | NIV)
Enter Job’s friends.
Job’s friends came to his aid. Three guys showed up to sit with Job and they began to talk to him. Now, some things they said were not wrong, just misguided. In fact, in The Fire of Delayed Answers, author Bob Sorge says that “Eliphaz and his friends spoke godly truth. They laid forth many biblical principles that are supported throughout the rest of Scripture. The problem was they had the right words for the wrong situation.”
Job’s friends did not know the whole story. They were offering advice based on what they could see going on in front of them. They were unaware of the spiritual battle going on behind the scenes. They also did not know that Job did not need to hear any scriptural platitudes to ease his suffering because Job, even though he was suffering beyond anything I can begin to imagine, was keenly aware of the fact that what was happening to him was not due to any sin on his part, but it was because God had chosen to test him in this way. Remarkably, Job recognized God’s desire to refine him.
Job had to be careful, though.
Even though he knew in his heart the true reason behind all that was happening, he still had his friends chirping in his ears. Of course, they were only trying to help. What if Job had been distracted those guys? Perhaps he would have missed the whole point of what God was trying to do.
We have to be careful too.
In the midst of our trials, we have to be able to filter out the advice we may be getting—no matter how helpful and godly it may seem to be. We have to be careful of what voices we listen to as we walk through the fire. They may be the voices of those who love us very much. But they may distract us from the One Voice. The only voice that matters—the voice of God.
How do we do that?
I have to remind myself, that in times of struggle, I need to reach for God first and not the phone. Open His instruction book. Seek the counsel of God Himself. Be still and know and trust and listen for His voice. Then I will know His voice and I will be better equipped to filter through the helpful, or perhaps misguided, offerings of others. I can seek godly counsel, but filter that based on His Word and on what I know to be true about the heart of God for me.
Likewise, I need to be cautious in my desire to help others. Before I jump in and make the same mistake Job’s friends made, I need to, as Mr. Sorge suggests, “stop first and ask the Lord how [I] can pray according to His heart.” Then I can help as the Lord leads.
“I desire greatly to bring the mind of the Lord to needy situations now rather than simply pooling from the reservoir of my own experiential wisdom.” ~Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers
I don’t want to be like Job’s friends who rushed in spouting off words at people without thinking it through and praying about it.
I want to be like Job, who trusted in God’s design for his sufferings and who remained steadfast and believed he would hear God even when he felt that God was silent. Even though he could not hear God’s voice, Job knew God’s heart and trusted in His ultimate plan.
And so can we.
8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
11 My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
Job 23:8-12 | NIV
I am excited to be joining in on a weekly book discussion led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. Please visit them to see other posts in response to The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge, at Jason’s blog—Connecting to Impact, and Sarah’s blog—Living Between the Lines. And even if you are not reading the book, please feel free to jump into the discussion!