6 Ways to Avoid Being Like Job’s Friends

Ilya Repin [Public domain] ; Image from Wikimedia Commons

Ilya Repin [Public domain]; Image from Wikimedia Commons

It’s not fun being kicked while you are down. Perhaps you know someone who has experienced adversity of some kind, and people have rushed to judgment regarding why it happened. Job’s friends did exactly that when Job suddenly lost his children, wealth, and health. The Bible tells us why Job was experiencing adversity: God was allowing the testing of his faith through the woes Satan inflicted on him.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:6-11)

Job’s three friends visited him in his great grief in an attempt to be helpful, but they ended up falsely accusing Job of doing something that must have caused the calamities to fall upon him, adding even more misery to what their friend was already experiencing. We can see what was actually happening, because God has revealed it to us in the book of Job; but Job and his friends did not have knowledge of what was going on, so to speak, behind the scenes. Here are six ways to avoid being like Job’s friends when you see tragedy strike out of seemingly nowhere.

1. Don’t be quick to judge, because you likely don’t have all the facts.

You may think you have enough information to assess what caused a certain event, but even people close to the circumstances don’t always have access to all the factors that led to a tragedy. Rushing to a conclusion may make you feel like you have made a stand for something noble, but you may end up falsely accusing someone of wrongdoing.

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov. 29:20)

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2)

2. Remember that your words and actions can have far-reaching effects, more than you may realize at the time.

Perhaps the event that has occurred was a particularly traumatic one of great evil. Rushing to judgment and making statements about what should or should not have been done to prevent the tragedy can cause the affected people to become so distressed that they sink further into depression and despair, and they may even become suicidal. Perhaps other people won’t want to associate with them because of your words. It has become common in society today for people to rush to accuse others of being racist, misogynist, or xenophobic based primarily on their own lens or perspective. Words hurt, and words broadcast publicly—whether in print or online—cannot be taken back.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)

3. Think of how you would want people to treat you and do the same for those who are suffering.

How would you feel if you were the person or group being judged and criticized? Wouldn’t you want people to reserve judgment until all the crucial facts came to light? Wouldn’t you want people to have charity for you? Even though people are tempted to trust in their own strength, the Bible reminds us of our frailty:

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; 
    he remembers that we are dust. (Ps. 103:13-14)

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:31)

4. Resist outside pressure to respond until you have sufficient time to process what has happened.

Perhaps you are a prominent person and you feel like others are expecting your view on a certain event or the actions of a particular person or group. Your words carry even more weight, and how you respond can have even greater consequences. While we may feel honored that someone wants our viewpoint, we are not necessarily obligated to provide it. It may be the wisest course to resist such pressure if a response can wait, so that you have time to learn more crucial facts and weigh all the potential effects of your opinion/actions.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:9)

5. Consider whether your opinion needs to be expressed at all.

Lots of chatter about an event often leads to needless and harmful speculation. Perhaps the best thing you can do is say nothing at all, at least until you can provide a well-informed, thoughtful, and loving response. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good to share it. It may be beneficial to seek the wise counsel of those you respect before deciding to express your view.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)

6. Be humble and wise in your response to tragedy.

It is easy to imagine that we would have acted differently (i.e., better) if we found ourselves in the same circumstances before a tragedy occurred and that we could have somehow stopped the event from taking place. The truth is that the rest of us have the benefit of hindsight, which the affected person or group didn’t have at the time.

“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted….
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lordthat will stand. (Prov. 19:21)

It is good to learn from tragedies, so that we can prevent them from occurring again. We should always stand against evil. Yet, we also must remember that only God knows why he allows various evils to occur. We can only make the best decisions we can at the time as imperfect humans with limited knowledge and abilities in a fallen world. Approach any and all tragic events with humility, wisdom, and prayer, so that you can be helpful and not harmful to those who find themselves in overwhelming and seemingly impossible-to-explain circumstances.

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