The writer of Ecclesiastes penned a moving poem in chapter 3: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace (1-8).
Listening to Job this morning I think he might add another example, a time to comfort and a time to counsel. Job’s opening words drown with hurt. I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief (2-5).
Counsel and comfort are two distinct activities. Job longs for the latter while he receives the former…
One of the qualities of many men is that we are fixers. We offer solutions to everything. Well, maybe not every male, but this is certainly true of me. When I listen to folks, family members, church members, friends, inside my head I am thinking, “Ok, you could try this, or how about that…” I drop into ‘fix-it mode’ without even trying. And sometimes my fix-it mode is correcting crooked thinking… explaining where people are wrong and straightening them out. You get the idea. Well most of this fits in the category of counsel.
There is a time and place for counsel and the key is knowing the right time and place.
God chastises me and reminds me of the value of listening, listening to the person with whom I am speaking and listening to the Lord, because there is a time to counsel and a time to comfort.
I am less adept at comfort… empathizing with others and entering into their situation so that my presence can help them continue. Job longs for comfort. I wonder how many of my friends and family receive my counsel when they long for my comfort? O, God, I have so much growing to do…
O, Lord, help me learn the difference between comfort and counsel and to discern the right time for each. There is a time for everything and season for every activity under heaven… Amen.