We can only make the best decisions we can at the time as imperfect humans with limited knowledge and abilities in a fallen world. Approach any and all tragic events with humility, wisdom, and prayer, so that you can be helpful and not harmful to those who find themselves in overwhelming and seemingly impossible-to-explain circumstances.
It’s not fun being kicked while you are down. Perhaps you know someone who has experienced adversity of some kind, and people have rushed to judgment regarding why it happened. Job’s friends did exactly that when Job suddenly lost his children, wealth, and health. The Bible tells us why Job was experiencing adversity: God was allowing the testing of his faith through the woes Satan inflicted on him.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:6-11)
Job’s three friends visited him in his great grief in an attempt to be helpful, but they ended up falsely accusing Job of doing something that must have caused the calamities to fall upon him, adding even more misery to what their friend was already experiencing. We can see what was actually happening, because God has revealed it to us in the book of Job; but Job and his friends did not have knowledge of what was going on, so to speak, behind the scenes. Here are six ways to avoid being like Job’s friends when you see tragedy strike out of seemingly nowhere.
1. Don’t be quick to judge, because you likely don’t have all the facts.
You may think you have enough information to assess what caused a certain event, but even people close to the circumstances don’t always have access to all the factors that led to a tragedy. Rushing to a conclusion may make you feel like you have made a stand for something noble, but you may end up falsely accusing someone of wrongdoing.
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov. 29:20)
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2)
2. Remember that your words and actions can have far-reaching effects, more than you may realize at the time.
Perhaps the event that has occurred was a particularly traumatic one of great evil. Rushing to judgment and making statements about what should or should not have been done to prevent the tragedy can cause the affected people to become so distressed that they sink further into depression and despair, and they may even become suicidal. Perhaps other people won’t want to associate with them because of your words. It has become common in society today for people to rush to accuse others of being racist, misogynist, or xenophobic based primarily on their own lens or perspective. Words hurt, and words broadcast publicly—whether in print or online—cannot be taken back.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)