Tag Archives: advice

January 6; If It Were Me…

Job 4-7

Eliphaz meant well. He’d traveled some distance to be with his hurting friend. He sat with Job in silence for a whole week. To me, that is a sign of real friendship.

But, like most of us, Eliphaz got to the point where he wanted to fix things. Maybe he was uncomfortable himself in the presence of such intense grief. Maybe he just wanted to make Job feel better. “Ok, Job. You’ve cried about this long enough. Let’s figure this thing out and do something.”

Whatever his motive, once Eliphaz started talking, he was little comfort to his friend. Maybe there is something we can learn from his example.

Like rethinking the blame game. Eliphaz, in effect, says, “Face it, Job, you deserve this.” Then if that isn’t bad enough, he follows that with the ever popular: “If I were you…

Actually, he said, “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” (5:8 emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing: when we know of people going through hard situations, examining ourselves is not a bad thing to do. Asking myself what I might do in a similar circumstance reveals some important things about me.


Because you are you. Your friend is your friend. Your circumstances are yours. Their circumstances are theirs. Besides, you DON’T know what you would do. Not really. Not even if you’ve experienced something similar. You are not them. What worked for you might not work for them.

You telling them what you would do elevates you, and further pushes them into their already hopeless estate. I can’t believe any of us would want to do that to someone who is already in that much pain. Even if they ask you what you would do, or ask what you think they should do, resist the temptation to tell them.

I find that saying something like, “I don’t know,” is sometimes the only truthful answer. “What do you think you should do?” is a much better response. Or, even better: “Let’s pray and ask God to show you what you should do.”

Eliphaz and his friends are going to have a bucket full of advice for Job. And really, none of it is all that good. But let’s read their words and learn to be better comforters, better counselors, better friends to people who are hurting.

If it were me, I’d learn from their mistakes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)



Hey! Don’t Take My Coat!

I had a slow drain in the tub of a mobile home I lived in for a while.  No matter what I tried, it would clog up regularly. So I started a new routine. Every Saturday morning I’d pour baking soda into that drain, then dump a cup of vinegar on it and watch it go to work. It fizzed, and popped, and bubbled while the chemicals reacted to one another. Then, I would pour some boiling water into the drain and listen for it to flow freely.

Solomon tells us, in Proverbs 25:20 that singing a happy song to someone who is sad is like pouring vinegar over baking soda. The reaction is anything but soothing. Telling someone to “cheer up” or to “get over it” doesn’t help a person who is mourning or depressed. In fact, it can cause more grief. It would be like doing your happy dance at a funeral.

Sometimes people need to be sad. And if I am overtly expressing my happiness without considering their feelings, I’m just being mean. Solomon says it’s like taking the coat away from someone standing in the middle of a snowstorm.

As a middle school counselor I learned that sometimes I needed to allow the person sitting in front of me to feel the feelings. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. I had to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, that any tidbit of advice I might throw out there could make matters worse. I learned to ask, even of eleven-year-olds, what it is they thought they needed. Did they want to talk about it? Or did they just want to sit next to me and cry? There would, undoubtedly, come a time when I would direct that person to finding solutions. But sometimes that didn’t happen for quite some time. They needed to feel the feelings first.

Life is hard. Everyone goes through difficult times. Grief is personal. Depression can be a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” cancer, would you?

God is telling me today to choose my words, my attitude toward the people in my life who are facing hardships. Sometimes well intended words are just mean, like exposing someone to freezing weather, or pouring vinegar over baking soda. I want to be sensitive to what it is they are going through at the moment, set myself aside, and allow them to grieve, or rant, or question.

Lord, forgive me when I’m so taken with good things in my life that I walk over someone who is hurting. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse than they already feel. Help me to notice the hurt in someone’s eyes or in the sound of their voice. Give me the words to say that will soothe and encourage. Or help me to keep my mouth shut and just be present. More than anything, Lord, I pray that they will be drawn to you as a result of my caring about their feelings.

If I were you…

Have you ever given or been given advice that begins with, “If I were you…”? How was that advice received? The thing is, grief, anxiety, worry, suffering, whatever the problem – it is personal. I can try to put myself in your shoes but my frame of reference is me. The only way I can really know what you are going through is to become you. Me in your shoes is still me.

Does that mean we should never give advice? Honestly, unless the hurting person asks for advice that is exactly what I’m saying. But even when asked, we shouldn’t assume anything. We should not assume we know how that person feels or know what they are going through. We should not assume we know why that dear one is suffering. Even if you have experienced similar circumstances you cannot know how they are feeling. You can only know how you felt in your experience.

I am reading the book of Job, a book filled with all kinds of bad advice from friends who really did mean well. But Eliphaz, in Job 5:8, actually does give what I consider some good advice for all of us. He told Job to take it to God. You see, God is the only one who really knows what you are going through. He knows how you feel because he reaches into your deepest, darkest places where no one but you can go. 

I guess I would say if you are going through something, go ahead and listen to the advice given by well-meaning friends. You might hear something useful amid all the garbage. But listen with a filter. Then take your problem, maybe even the advice, to God and see what he thinks. Read God’s Word with an open heart. Pray. Thank God for his love even if you feel unloved. Praise him for his blessings even if it’s hard to do. Lay your requests at his feet, then trust him to take care of you.

God promises to give us all we need and he is true to his Word.