It’s one of my greatest weaknesses. It leads to conflict, tension, and at its worst, broken relationships. I’m speaking of my untamed tongue! Regardless of my good intentions, there are times when, somewhere between intent and delivery, my message gets twisted, wounding my listener.
When that happens, I’m left with incredible remorse and a resounding, why?! Why couldn’t I keep my mouth shut? Why’d I feel the need to “fix” that? And why’d I become so aggravated when my friend didn’t heed my brilliant advice?
I know I’m not alone. In fact, it appears mankind has a universal desire to be right and convince others that they are. I believe the answer is a complicated mixture of pride, fear, and perhaps impatience.
Consider the story of Job and his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. I imagine some of you are clenching your fists and your teeth already as you remember the harsh accusations these men made. The phrase, “don’t kick a man when he’s down” comes to mind.
But today I challenge us to see ourselves in this narrative. I also challenge us to take a step back, focusing not on their ultimate verbal explosion, but their rather gentle beginnings.
You can read the passage here, but to summarize, when Job’s friends heard of all he’d suffered, they went to him. Remember, they didn’t have automobiles or mini-marts, so this involved a certain level of commitment. When they saw him, they wailed loudly, which indicates they cared deeply for him. Then, they sat on the ground with him for seven days, not speaking. Why? Because they saw his suffering was too great for words.
As you see, they initiated this encounter with loving, compassionate hearts and the best intentions. But by chapter four, their message spiraled into one of condemnation and accusations.
Oh, how often we do the same! The fact is, we’re human with a limited reserve of energy and self-control, and tragedy and illness affect us all. When loved ones suffer, a slew of confusing emotions arise from fear to anger, often at the most unexpected times. This is why we need to anticipate potential difficulties and set boundaries before attempting to serve or comfort a friend. Like Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, for the spirit is willing but the body is weak.” When unguarded, even our best intentions and acts of love can go awry.
Let's talk about this! In this narrative, who do you relate to most and why? Perhaps share a time when you intended to comfort or help someone but became impatient, aggitated, or maybe even harsh. Have you been on the receiving end? If so, why do you think your "accusers" turned hostile or accusatory? How did you handle this?