Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 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. After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. - Job 2:11-13; 3:1
When Job's three friends learned of all the tragedy that had befallen him, they got together and formed a "cheer up" party at Job's house. The trouble is that they didn't cheer Job up. In fact, they merely sat with him for seven days in complete silence. Now, I understand that sometimes it's nice to have someone simply be there for us. During certain times, no words are necessary, and frankly, sometimes, they're not wanted. I understand that. But for seven days? Didn't one of these guys think that maybe Job needed to hear some words of encouragement? How about a reminder of God's promises? Or how about just asking the simple question, "Hey, Job, do you want to talk about it?"
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. Yes, there is a time when the one who is hurting simply needs the presence of a friend or loved one. But sometimes, we need to speak up. That person needs encouragement. He/she needs a word of cheer or perhaps a Scripture verse. How about a song that fits the situation in which the person is mired? When it's time to speak, God will give you the words to say, but you must be attentive to His voice. After all, God may be trying to use your voice to drown out all the other voices that are filling the head and heart of your hurting loved one. Yours can be the voice of reason in the midst of their total chaos.
Job's friends decided to give him the silent treatment, and we clearly see the result of that in chapter 3. Job went from "blessed be the name of the Lord" to "I wish I had never been born." Wow, some "cheer up" party, huh? I think it would have been better for all involved if those friends had sat quietly with him for a day, then offered some encouragement.
On that note, let me mention that Job's friends do have plenty to say in the rest of the book, and unfortunately, it has no better encouraging effect than their silence does. But that's because they weren't allowing God to speak and encourage through them. They were ushering out their own thoughts and opinions. The hurting and discouraged don't need our advice, opinions or criticism. They need to hear from God. They need to be reminded of His goodness. And we can be a conduit for such edification if we'll only be willing to be used of God in such a way.
Speak or be quiet? God will give you wisdom as to which is best during any given situation. But when you speak, make sure it's His words coming out of your mouth and not your own. Your friend is depending on you!