Friday, March 7, 2014

Job's Comforters

"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction."
Proverbs 13:3
(KJV)
"He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his soul: but he that hath no guard on his speech shall meet with evils."
(Douay-Rheims Bible)
"Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin."
(NIV)




Have you ever had someone call, happily picked up the phone hoping for a word of cheer,
then ended up finishing the phone call, defeated, discouraged, down-hearted, and depressed?
A phone call that you had hoped would bring an uplift, encouragement, and peace,
actually had the complete opposite effect.
Perhaps you were sick, and you needed to hear affirmation of God's healing.
Or maybe you were in a quandary, 
and you needed to hear someone remind you that God would show you the way.
Or you felt God-forsaken, and you were hoping with all your heart 
that the person on the other end would assure you that He is still with you.
Or perhaps you desperately needed prayer, and instead, 
you were over-bearingly told that you needed some other means of help.

Being on the brunt end of such experiences
has made me more and more aware of my own words to others.
It has reminded me time after time that there is an enormous amount of power in our spoken words.
That our words can either breathe life or death into situations.
Literally.

I have hung up the phone, nearly in tears,
longing so desperately for an encouraging word,
and finding myself way more discouraged after a conversation,
than I was before it started.

To be honest, it frustrates me.
Seriously, do people really realize how they sound?
Would they want to hear the same gloom and doom....
if they were now standing in my shoes?
Would they really want to hear every terrifying possibility?
How would they feel to be told of the worst conceivable scenario in someone else's imagination?
Is it really necessary to bring up every bad story you can muster
and share every gory detail with someone who is sitting at rock bottom?
Does this really help anyone's cause?
Is it in any remote way edifying to one who is grasping with all their might for the tiniest shred of hope 
or the dimmest ray of encouragement?

I mean, really.
Does a person groveling for hope need to hear about how 
Lula Belle's fourth cousin, twice removed, died from the same problem you have?
Does a person terrified about the future need to hear that Aunt Louise's third husband 
had the same symptoms and it turned out to be the beginning of the end for him?
Does a person already plagued with apprehension need to know that Uncle Remus's 
great-grandfather fell off a hay wagon, thought he was okay,
then went home to go to sleep and never woke up?

Seriously??

Do people really need to share every bit of information they know?
Why do they feel the need to blurt out every disparaging thought that enters their mind?
Do the words discretion....or tact.....or compassion....or wisdom....mean anything at all?

Sometimes, you get the feeling that it gives the other person great joy 
to gloat that they are not walking in your shoes.
Sometimes, it feels like they are insinuating that God must be better-pleased with them,
than He is with you, since their life is so calm and void of sickness or other calamity.
Sometimes, you discern that they feel it their duty to make you aware, by the slightest, little hints,
that maybe, just maybe, your trial or affliction is punishment for your own wrongdoing.
Sometimes, you are left with the suspicion that the real reason they called was to make you aware
that there was an even lower level of hopelessness to which you could fall.


I have seriously had to rely on the grace of God.
To keep my tongue in check.
To hold me back from retaliatory remarks.
To stay sweet.
To wait until I got off the phone to completely fall apart.
To resist the overpowering temptation to ask Zach to record a new voice mail message,
with this added at the end....
"If your intentions are to speak faith and life and hope, please leave a message.
If your motivation for calling is anything else, please don't."  :)

Our words hold the most amazing power.
God is showing me this.
One of the biggest tools He is using to get His message across to me,
is by allowing me to see and feel the effects of the words of others.

We have to walk on the opposite, receiving end of the spectrum
to really absorb and comprehend the feelings of those who walk there.


Jesus had to become one of us to understand how every pain of heart,
ache of body, insult, snide remark, and abuse really affects us.
Some of this was inflicted by His very own family.

He heard...and felt....it all.
Every bit of it.
He was tempted, tested, frustrated, aggravated, affected, and attacked.
He felt every, single emotion you and I will ever feel.
He stayed sinless and guiltless through it all.
And He did just the opposite of His opponents.

Every word that proceeded out of His mouth was edifying.
He didn't waste...or mince words.
He knew the amazing potential of every one uttered,
and He chose each one of His carefully and wisely.

I love and appreciate and respect every word in the Word of God,
but, there is something beyond precious to me about the RED LETTERS.
I have the deepest reverence for it all,
but I sit up and take up extra notice when I see red.

He is our example.
He set the standard...to show us the way.
He is the ultimate Encourager.
He never speaks gloom.
He speaks faith...always.

We should, too.

Remember the Old Testament righteous man named Job?

He got word that his oxen and donkeys were stolen by the Sabeans,
who also killed all of his servants but one.
Before he could absorb this loss, someone else arrived with the news 
that fire of God had fallen from Heaven and burned up all of his sheep
and all of the servants who tended them, except one.
While he was hearing this news, another came to him telling him 
the Chaldeans had stolen his camels and killed the servants who were with them,
all except the one who brought him the news.
At the same time this servant was speaking, another came with the worst news of all.
His sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in his oldest son's house,
when a strong gust of wind from the wilderness blew in and caused the house to fall.
As if this wasn't enough,
satan inflicted sore boils "from the sole of his foot unto his crown."  Job 2:7
His body was in a weakened, afflicted, anguished state, 
pushing past his own limits to even breathe and take one more step.
His heart was broken.
He ached from head to toe.
There wasn't a spot on him that wasn't affected.
Can you imagine?
To say Job was tormented is like saying the sun is bright.

To add insult to injury, his wife came along and said,
"Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die."  Job 2:9

The very one who should have held him up, 
encouraged him, strengthened his resolve in God,
and been the most supportive was the one who was the most discouraging.
Her words must have felt like blows from a heavy hammer 
falling upon the ears and heart of Job.

Into this already-depressed-beyond-measure scene....
Job's "friends".
Eliphaz the Temanite,
Bildad the Shuhite,
and Zophar the Naamathite
came to pay him an extended visit.

They had heard of Job's calamities,
his heartbreaking losses,
his agonizing affliction,
and "they made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights,
and none spake a word unto him:  for they saw that his grief was very great."
 Job 2:11,13

After the seven days and seven nights were passed,
Job began to speak.
This man had reached a depth of human suffering that was near-unbearable.
He needed to pour out his heart, to vent his pain, to disclose his anguish.
He was in the most desperate need of encouragement, inspiration, and hope.
You can read his sorrowful, troubled words in the 3rd chapter of the book of Job.
When he finishes, Eliphaz starts what becomes a 
"let's-just-see-how-much-and-how-mercilessly-we-can-badger-poor-old-tormented-Job"
"comfort"-fest.
He starts off by planting a suspicious seed in Job's mind...
in the form of a question that held the potential of undermining Job's determined faith.
"Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? 
or where were the righteous cut off?
Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.  
By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed."
Job 4:7-9

In other words, surely Job must have done something to deserve this devastation.
If he were innocent, surely he would not be going through this.
If he were righteous, he surely would not be in this condition.

For 29 chapters, the Bible records the ongoing conversation between Job
and his three "friends" who had come to comfort him.

If you have never read it, I highly recommend it.
It is raw.
Unedited.
Unmasked.
It paints a portrait of what is real....
from the viewpoints of all four men.

Beginning in chapter 38, GOD Himself begins to speak...to Job...out of a whirlwind.
For four chapters, He speaks....and Job listens.

At the end of God's speaking to him,
Job's reply is recorded in the first six verses of chapter 42.

God heard every, single, disparaging word 
uttered by Job's "comforters".
His anger was stirred as He listened.

"...the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends:  
for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, 
and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; 
and my servant Job shall pray for you: 
for him will I accept: 
lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, 
like my servant Job."
Job 42:7,8

Did you catch the fifth line?
God required Job to pray for his "comforters".
After sitting there all that time,
listening, enduring, languishing in pain,
God wanted Job to pray for his three "friends".
"Friends" who had a very strange way of showing their concern and "comfort".

Job had to forgive.
He had to go a step farther and pray for them so God would turn His anger away from them.
To me, this had to be a hard thing to do.
After all of the badgering, finger-pointing, and discouragement,
he was the person God chose to pray for the very men who inflicted the gloom.

This is a point that could fill up several days' worth of blog-posting.
The forgiveness had to happen before Job could move forward into the blessings God had waiting for him.

After his tribulations and his season of deep, dark affliction and grief, 
followed by the forgiveness of his tactless friends,
Job was blessed.
Abundantly.
With twice the amount of what he had before.


With friends like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who needs enemies, right?

James warned us about the tongue and its powers.
"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; 
and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God."
James 3:8,9

I know people mean well, but honestly, so many times, they just don't think
about how much trouble they cause and how much they assist satan in his work.
As if he doesn't present enough dark pictures on his own,
they are unknowingly adding fuel to his already-burning flame.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Proverbs 18:21

We can wound or make whole....
we can spiritually stimulate or inject despondency...
we can brighten the atmosphere or pull down clouds of discouragement...
we can restore faith or enhance doubt...
we can literally kill the spirit of another or breathe new life into their situation....
all through our choice of vocabulary,
our spoken words,
and the things we utter from our mouths.

Haven't we all been on the receiving end of the venom spewed by...
 ahem...."well-meaning", albeit insensitive "friends", relatives, and others
who strike a startling resemblance to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar?  

Do we really want to inject that into the already-tumultuous situations and lives of others?

David prayed these words,
 "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; 
keep the door of my lips."
Psalm 141:3


God help me to be sensitive to how my words are affecting others!
Help me think before I speak.
Help me remember...always...that on the receiving, hearing end of my words,
are ears attached to hearts that are hurting, sad, and void of hope.
To speak more hopelessness is not wise.

Words hold an incredible measure of power.

Here's the thing...
we cannot completely avoid all negativity.
We cannot control what other people say.
Once their words are spoken and we have heard them,
we cannot cause the deed to be undone.
Their words have now become our thoughts.
Sadly, we have to deal with the aftermath of their thoughtlessness.

We are then left with a choice.
Will we obsess over their words, believe them to be prophetic and true,
then watch as our spirit sinks lower than an expectant ant?
Or will we do what the Bible tells us to do with all errant thoughts?

The choice is up to us.

The antidote and remedy is a two-step process.
God knew these things would happen.
He made provision for us to equip ourselves to combat these types of attacks.


Step number one is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5.

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..."
2 Corinthians 10:5

We are to bring the thought captive...
we are to arrest it and bring it into obedience 
and in line with Biblical thinking and what we know to be true.

Step number two is found in Philippians 4:8.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, 
whatsoever things are honest, 
whatsoever things are just, 
whatsoever things are pure, 
whatsoever things are lovely, 
whatsoever things are of good report; 
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

After we have captivated the negative thought,
the second step is to replace it with one that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely or of a good report.

No negativity here.
No gloom and doom.
No "woe is me".
Just the good stuff.
All positive.

I mean no harm in saying this,
but, there are days that I cannot bear to hear one more negative thing.
Can anyone relate?
Because hearing those things really hinders my faith.
It has an impact.
It takes me a while to follow steps one and two again...and recover.

Sometimes, you just have to politely say "no" to the work-lunch invitation,
the phone call, or the email.
If you are not in a good place, it isn't in your best interest to commiserate with others who 
will take you to an even worse state of mind.
There is a Christlike way to refrain without being offensive or  hurtful.

Do what you need to do to protect your own faith.

Here are some helpful tips that I have learned the hard way.
****************************************************************
 1.  Surround yourselves with those who are positive and who choose 
to speak faith and the Word of God over you and your situation.
****************************************************************
  2.  Talk to those who will pray for you and assure you that 
"all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
2 Corinthians 1:20
*****************************************************************
 3.  Have conversations with those who will remind you 
that your healing has already been accomplished,  
because Jesus has already been scourged.  I Peter 2:24
****************************************************************
4.  Politely refrain from placing yourself around discouraging associations.
You know who they are.
I realize that sometimes the ones who discourage us the most are those with whom 
we must have at least minimal interaction.
If you do have to be around the one(s) who bring you down,
do your best to veer the conversation away from subject matter 
that would give them the impression they have a free ticket to wear down your faith.
******************************************************************
5.  Listen to things that will reinforce your faith and trust in God.
Music that glorifies Him,
recorded sermons that have been preached under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit,
testimonies of others who have walked in your shoes and been brought through to victory,
Christian radio programming that keeps God front and center,
and most importantly, be still and quiet enough to hear God's voice.
*****************************************************************
6.  Optimally use your Caller ID.
If you have finally recovered from the last onslaught of faith-killing negativity,
if you have, at last, refocused your eyes upon Jesus and His all-encompassing ability, 
and you are once again persuaded that what He has promised,
He is able also to perform and bring to pass,
don't pick up the phone and allow someone to tear it all down and send you back to square one.
If you have to take a pass on the phone call in order to solidify your resolve,
do it.
******************************************************************
7.  Keep in mind that others may not have reached your level of faith.
Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they mean well in their endeavors.
Forgive them, for many times, they know not what they do.
If they are intentional in their discouragement,
God will deal with it.
You don't have to.
Let it go.
Release it to God, your Defender.
It relieves so much pressure and stress to just hand it all over to Him
and transfer the responsibility on to His shoulders.
He is a big God.
He can...and will handle it.
****************************************************************
8.  If your problem is sickness, it isn't always the brightest idea to go to online medical sites
and read every available disease that could be attached to your symptoms.
Trust me on this one.
Experience has taught me that satan loves to use this tool.
Not that these sites aren't informative, helpful, and chock full of advice.
They are.
But, trying to self-diagnose gives the devil enough rope to hang himself...and you, too.
He will have you convinced that you are dying,
that it is time to throw in the towel, because there is no hope for you,
and you may as well start making funeral arrangements as soon as possible.
Your problem may be worlds apart from the disease 
he has managed to brainwash you into believing you have.
The thing to remember is this...satan is a liar.
Jesus said he has been from the beginning.
He called him the father of lies.
So, why do we continue to listen to him?
Jesus is the truth.
We need to continually re-direct our focus to Him and what He can do.
*****************************************************************

Whatever your situation,
wherever you are,
regardless of your season,
God is still God.
He is still on the throne.
Listen to Him.
Tune out the Job's Comforters in your life.
We all have them, don't we?

Do what you have to do to strengthen your faith in God,
even if it means distancing yourself from what or who would weaken it.





14 comments:

  1. Thank you for this awakening message. God's wisdom is truly coming out from your lips.
    I am always encouraged by your teaching.
    hugs from me.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind, encouraging words, Joy! It is always such a blessing to have you stop by! God bless you in a special way!! Love, Cheryl

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  2. Thank you for sharing this much needed post and your examples to watch our words with us here at "Tell Me a Story."
    Your tips are well thought out too. I am so thankful that Jesus is our Healer and it is good to be in the company of those who believe this strongly. (and avoid the Job's comforters.)

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    1. Thank you so much, Hazel! So happy you stopped by. God bless you this week. So sorry you are having problems with the link-up. I hope it is resolved for you soon! Love, Cheryl

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  3. Yes, it is so true! Our words are very powerful. May the Lord truly put a watch over our tongues and wisdom in hearts to when to speak and when to keep silent. How precious it is to have His Word to live by! He is so good and gracious and kind to us, isn't He? Many Blessings, Camille

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    1. Yes, His Word is precious to my soul! He certainly is good to us and is a loving Savior and Lord. I don't know what I would do without His tender guidance and presence in my life. He means everything to me! So happy you stopped by today, Camille! God bless you. Love, Cheryl

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  4. Job friends are always out there, aren't they? When we were on the mission field, I used to send out monthly prayer requests to a group of people and I finally took one of them off my list because she always wrote back with "suggestions" that our difficulties or illness might be punishment for our sin. You've given some good counsel here. : )

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    1. Yes, unfortunately, they are. I honestly don't think people realize the power behind their words and how they can wound or make whole. Oh, my! That is awful that you had to endure this kind of trial...especially from someone who should have been encouraging you. I can surely relate to how that felt. It was great wisdom on your part to just simply delete her from your distribution. I think we learn as we go that if a relationship is not edifying to us, if it is continually discouraging us and bringing us down, it is best to shed it (without bitterness) and only retain the encouragers in our inner circle! :) Blessings and love to you, Gail! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  5. I had to smile at your words, Cheryl. You're so right, and it is hard but sometimes necessary to purposely surround ourselves with encourageing music and people.

    You reminded me of a time about 21 years ago, when we were travelling, I was miscarrying in a church's guest room. I did the best I could to make myself presentable, and could barely stand to greet the people and then hurry back to my room. After the service I had a "miserable comforter" who held my hand and said that she "thanked God that this was happening to me!"

    She meant well, and I understood that she wanted to help me see the good in everything, but OUCH! I thought to myself, "Wow, lady, what kind of comfort is THAT?!?" I laugh about it now, because it's such a classic case of "miserable comforters."

    We may not always be able to avoid miserable comforters, but we need to be careful not to purposely allow ourselves to get in their paths! ;)

    God bless you, Cheryl!

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    1. Oh, Lisa! This is just horrible! Bless your dear heart! Things like that never leave our memory, and it is so very difficult to ever feel right towards the person who inflicted the wound. What a horribly insensitive act on the part of the "comforter"! May God helps us to be so careful with our own words and never hurt anyone in the ways we have been hurt. You are ALWAYS such an encouragement to me when you stop by...so thankful to see you here today. :) Love, Cheryl

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  6. Cheryl, thanks for reminding me to treat others with grace and be quick to forgive. I love that verse from Psalms 141 -- that's a good daily prayer. So glad you linked up today at Thought-Provoking Thursday! :)

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    1. So happy you came by, Lyli! YES, I love that verse, too! I try to remember to pray it every day. Thank you for the link-up and for your consistent encouragement and faithfulness to God. Love, Cheryl

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  7. This is so wonderful! Thanks for linking it up with the Faith and Fellowship blog hop!

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    1. Susannah, I'm so happy and blessed by your visit and comments! Thank you for the link-up, and may God bless you in a special way. Love, Cheryl

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