Helping the Sufferer: Giving Advice

When someone close to us feels distressed, we learn to live with our sense of helplessness while we wait for some signal from them that they seek our comfort. Not that we’re totally passive, but in the midst of our reaching out to provide comfort in their distress, they signal us that they’d like to talk or pray together again, by phone or in person. Or when you offer, they respond positively and the two of you set a date and time.

We wait for that signal because, in our efforts to help another person, we can try too hard. When someone close to us feels distressed, one of the most important ways we misstep is our need to give advice. “If I were you…” we say. When we’re with someone so obviously needy, it’s hard to resist.

Because we care, we feel pressure to get to the heart of the other’s difficulty, to help them resolve it, to relieve their suffering. It’s hard for us to watch them hurt. Even when there seems to be very little we can do, we feel the need to try. We want to say something healing, to share our solutions, or to provide hope. The solution seems so obvious, how could they also not see it?

The problem: our words of comfort, reassurance, or advice can be premature. We communicate we don’t understand. In his first response to Job’s desire to die, Eliphaz makes that blunder: “But I would resort to God; I would lay my case before God” (Job 5:4 JPS).

Has a friend offered you their premature advice? How did you respond? Have you done so yourself? How did your friend respond?



About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy ( blog to learn more. provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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