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In times of sorrow, have you ever looked to someone for understanding but found little comfort because he or she simply could not see beyond his or her own experiences and view of things? This must have been the experience of Job with Eliphaz.

Eliphaz was Job’s friend. When Job, a righteous man was undergoing terrible suffering for reasons that were not clear to him, three of his friends came to mourn and talk with him. Eliphaz was among those friends. He was from Teman, a city likely located in Edom, a country to the southeast of Israel.

Eliphaz made three different speeches to Job. In the first, he cast Job’s suffering as simply another example of the suffering that all people experience as a result of sinfulness (Job 4–5). He gently encouraged Job to repent and experience God’s restoration.

Eliphaz’s second speech came after Job defended himself against his friends’ accusations, and Eliphaz became a little harsher in his rebuke (Job 15). By the time he spoke to Job a third time, he directly challenged Job as one of the wicked—but he also described the mercy that God shows to those who repent (Job 22).

In the end, God rebuked Eliphaz, not Job. The Lord even instructed Eliphaz to ask Job to pray for him, showing that Job was in the right and Eliphaz was in the wrong (Job 42:7–9).

When someone comes to us for understanding during a time of trouble, one of the best things we can do is to be aware that we do not understand—that is, that our experiences and our way of seeing things may not exactly match up with the other person’s experiences. It is often better simply to listen, reflect, and love the other person rather than to try to sort everything out for him or her.