When we focus on our message as comforters, it’s easy to wander into uncharted territory with words that wound. We may think we’ve got the perfect answer for someone in trouble; we may think we’ve analyzed their situation to a T; we may feel impatient while they talk and talk about how bad it is for them. Once we’re given the opportunity to speak, therefore, we can’t wait to say the perfect gem of a response to wrap everything up. Then we can move on. We assume they also can.
At the end of their sitting seven days in silence, Job may have felt very secure with his friends, his peers as wisdom teachers. When Job feels ready, therefore, he unloads the most intense, extended passage in Scripture on wanting to die (Chapter 3). Job opens with curses on his day of birth and on his night of conception. The curse, we remember, almost fulfills the Satan’s prediction. Instead of Job cursing God, however, he curses his life. Job is so close; does he cross the line, or not?
Although the friends wanted to be with Job in his suffering, and were willing to sit with him for what have seemed forever, what they heard must have upset them greatly. They saw no cause for Job’s extreme language of curses. As a result, they use strategy after strategy to try to put out the fire. Instead, of course, their insensitivity only inflames Job’s rhetoric, and their arguments only intensify his emotional pain; the tension between them escalates.
When a friend opens up to us, we risk wounding them with a second trauma of misunderstanding, or worse, judgment. In spite of Job sharing his deepest vulnerabilities, Job’s friends wound him again and again.
Have you tried to help someone only to discover you caused more hurt?