by Paula Masters
Are you hurting? Be extra careful who you share your pain with because the act of divulging typically incites response; welcomed or not…sound or not. It is human nature to offer advice. All the more reason not to let you aching heart drive your vulnerable spirit into the counsel of Job’s friends, lest you reap pain upon the pain you are already facing.
In God’s rebuke of Job’s friends we can see the danger. God addresses Job first in saying, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) God wanted Job to know the truth, he was sinking into the depth of despair and the people closest to him were thwarting good counsel to his heart when he needed it most. In God’s admonition we need to recognize, first, that just because someone is close (a family member, a trusted friend, a pastor or a professional therapist) it doesn’t make them a good counselor. However, most of the time this is the very criteria that qualifies someone in our own minds (and theirs as well). Yes, even teachers and pastors are fallible people and as such quite often switch into black and white when there are many more colors involved. Therapists have their individual studies and biases and vary even between each other in opinions and theories as well.
As wonderful as all these people might be, unless their own hearts are in tune, in communion, in earnest prayer with God on your behalf their words are at risk of darkening your soul. Great sounding words still fall short–they are words without knowledge – and cast a shadow over the truth that God intends for you to hear. As broken-hearted and desperate as you might be feeling for some type of counsel, your first order of business is to say “no” to those urges to bear your soul prematurely to people placed in front of you, no matter how close or well-intentioned they may be.
Secondly, in God’s rebuke directly towards Job’s friends we can see the offensiveness of their well-meaning counsel, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me…” (Job 42:7). Their discernment was off kilter about God, and God’s wrath was stirred against them. They represented God to Job in a faulty way. They took truths and applied it haphazardly. This is the tricky part of receiving counsel. We who are hurting don’t see the whole picture, and neither does anyone else (including well intentioned counselors). Only God sees the big picture of your life fully, and often our trials are about developing trust and not answers. So the very counsel we erroneously receive acts as a breakdown agent to the fibers of our faith. When we are down and out we are most vulnerable, and God takes any careless handling of this sensitive state by others very seriously.
Should we skip counsel then? No, advice and direction are good, important and often needed. But when considering talking with counselor or adviser let these few basic principles guide you:
- Make sure the friend/counselor feels the gravity of their role before God. It is an awesome privilege to be used by God as a tool in this way in the life of someone else.
- Make sure they are the type of person who will take information to God in prayer before randomly throwing down verses, platitudes, and heavy doses of opinions. (it’s better to have someone say I don’t know the answer then to have someone feel compelled to offer words without wisdom).
- Make sure they don’t have biases towards any of the people involved in your trial. (avoid any critical, judgmental, or superior temperaments)
(If you are already receiving counsel, but they do not meet this criteria then consider finding a new counseling source)