Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

family-console-grief

What do you say to a friend in pain, to someone who’s lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or who’s been struck with something devastating? Do you offer advise? Small talk? Or perhaps avoid them altogether?

We can learn a thing or two from Job’s famous friends. Better yet, we can learn from their example what not to do. Job’s life was in shambles; his children had been killed in a severe storm, his health had deteriorated, he seemed to be on the next train to his grave, and he had nothing left to live for, save a wife who didn’t seem to be a lot of help, dealing with her own grief and pain as she was. In all this, Job did not abandon God, though his wife seemed to suggest that he do so.

Job had a handful of friends who surrounded him. At first they sat with him in silence, they listened to him, and they might have quit while they were ahead. Instead, after a time, they opened up their mouths to offer their opinions freely, comprehensively, ad nauseum.

Not a single word was helpful.

Unless you’ve been through a time in your life where you’ve been tempted to pray Psalm 22: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” you’re probably not going to be able to walk beside a friend who feels abandoned by God without some coaching.

Job gave his friends some very helpful insights as to what his emotional needs were at that point. We would do well to heed his advice, for we never know when we will need it – when our friend will need us. Our words will either be helpful or not. Let’s shoot for the former. Let’s take Job’s advice to heart, so we can be true friends to those in need.

“If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” Job 13:5

Job politely asked his friends to quit offering advice. A person dealing with trauma doesn’t need to hear your chain of consciousness nor your great solutions. You just aren’t qualified, and they know that. They simply need to know you’re there. Just a squeeze of the hand, a moment of eye contact, a look of empathy will go far beyond words of advice or even consolation. Sometimes there simply is no capacity for consolation.

“What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.” Job 16:3-5

Job’s friends were gloating; their religious notions led them to believe that when bad things happen, the unfortunate recipient must deserve them. Their words had a critical edge. Their body language bespoke pride; they looked down on this unfortunate friend, pleased as punch that it was he that was suffering and not they. They assumed that Job must deserve this medicine he was forced to consume.

When we encounter a friend who is grieving, we must never assume their problems are their fault. We must never look down on them for having them or criticize them in any way. Our body language should never be that of impatience or intolerance for their current situation. It must be the only the Spirit of Jesus, which is love…peace…kindness…and gentleness.

“But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:5

Here Job gives us the best possible advice for helping our friends who are struggling:  offer genuine encouragement; seek to lighten their load rather than add to it, as Job’s friends unfortunately succeeded at doing.

Encouragement can come in both verbals and non-verbals. Encouragement is offering and enabling courage in the heart and soul of another. But, remember, we don’t need to say much. Encouragement can be most effective in small doses. Like too much salt, too many words – even encouraging ones – can wreck the recipe.

Do you have a friend in need, but you have no idea how to help? Perhaps you have been avoiding him or her, for fear of how to broach the subject of their pain. If so, pray this plain and simple prayer with us today…

Father,

Jesus modeled friendship in the very best of ways. He is the closest friend of the broken-hearted. Lord, my friend’s heart is broken, and I just don’t know how to help, so I’m coming to You, the giver of wisdom. I want to be the heart and hands of Jesus to my friend, but I don’t know how.

Give me a heart of humility. Correct any false notions or prideful thoughts that what they have encountered is somehow due to their own folly. Folly! It is not my job on the planet to understand those things!

Put a guard over my mouth. Help me to say only what is helpful for building my friend up. As Jesus only said what He heard the Father say, I wish to say only what the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.

You know my friend much better than I. Please tell me what to say and how to say it. Help me to bring encouragement, to lighten the load, and to offer whatever I can do to bring help in their time of need.

As I wait on You now, I am trusting You to speak clearly to me, and I will follow Your instructions.

In all this, Lord, I lift my friend up to You in prayer. I ask that You would grant him/her comfort, consolation, and relief from pain and anguish of soul. Use me in this endeavor, Lord.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Photo credit: Foter.com

 

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