They made it about them. Job’s friends didn’t listen to him. Not really. They all ended up telling Job how he had hurt their feelings. They were quick to talk in generalities, but none of them even acknowledged Job’s honest distress, or tried to understand what he was feeling.
Job was hurting. Job was lost and sick and confused. But his friends never once considered where Job was coming from. Instead, they all had something to say about “them,” those wicked people out there, the greedy, the rich, the guilty. Their speeches were impressive.
The issue was Job’s horrible tragedy. But they made it about them. I’m reading from the New Living Translation this year and I had to laugh at how they put Job’s plea:
Listen to what I am saying. That’s one consolation you can give me. Bear with me, and let me speak. After I have spoken, you may resume mocking me. (21:2-3)
You go, Job!
Do you know someone who is hurting? One of the best things you can do for your friend is listen. Not talk. Listen past his (or her) words and into his heart. Put aside the cliche’s (God knows best, you are strong, you can do this, pray about it, God’s in control, etc., etc., etc.) and just listen. Take in what he is saying and try to understand without thinking about solutions, or even thinking about your own experiences.
Your friend may be asking questions – but he probably isn’t ready to hear the answers you think you have. He wants you to hear him. Give him that respect.
And remember, your friend is hurting. It’s not about you. Don’t make it be.