Pastor, I need your help.” Since the tone of voice didn’t seem urgent, the pastor just looked at him and asked him to wait, as he was attending to another church member; then he would be glad to listen. When he said good-bye to the lady, the pastor invited the young man to sit on the church pew and tell his story.
Some time ago, the young man knew a young lady. He had a sexual experience with her and she became pregnant. Under these conditions, the parents “suggested” that they get married soon. He felt he didn’t have an excuse because he loved her very much. They began their marriage expecting a baby and with their own expectations. The pregnancy was normal, and soon a beautiful baby came to add color to their garden of life. Everything went well for a time. Then friction arose and developed into offensive arguments. The man felt his wife had changed her comportment and attitude toward him. The arguments became more frequent, and she’d say, “I don’t love you. You’re such a little thing” and soon things worsened when her parents intervened and “suggested” that it would be better if they separated.
One time the father-in-law tried to attack him, and her brothers and sisters insulted him too. He told them all, “Considering the situation, if she would have a different attitude about me, the separation would not need to take place.” But she said, “I want to continue with it; I do not love you.” When it was finally decided, he went to live with an aunt.
He asked, “What should I do, pastor? What is your concept of everything that has happened?”
The pastor thought a bit and remembered the psalm of love written by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love believes all things, hopes all things. Where there is love, there is hope. But where there is no love, there is nothing.”
So the pastor said, “Brother, if things are as you have described, if your wife no longer loves you, if you are constantly being offended, if your in-laws hate you, then the best thing to do is to separate from your wife because you are being damaged emotionally and spiritually. That is my opinion. But I suggest that you continue seeking God and stay true to your marital vows.”
When he finished, the young man said, “Thank you, pastor. This was what I was hoping you would tell me,” and he left.
Later the pastor, who is my husband, told me the story, their dialogue, the advice he gave, and the young man’s reply. My husband admitted that he was so caught up that night in counseling so many people that he didn’t seriously consider his reply to this young man; he’d only known him for a month and didn’t know how the man’s wife felt about the conflict.
My husband isn’t a bad counselor, but this experience set me to thinking about how careful we should be when we listen to others’ problems. We must not forget to listen to both sides of the story. There are three points to remember: two sides to every story and the truth.
What caught my attention was what the young man said; “Thanks, pastor, this is what I hoped you would say.”
Where had I heard those words before? Then I remembered a Bible story that is registered in 2 Chronicles 18. Jehosphaphat, king of Judah, visited King Ahab. The wicked king tried to convince him to join in the battle against Ramothgilead (verse 3). Jehosphaphat feared God, but he said yes. However, Jehoshaphat said they needed to talk to God about it first. Ahab gathered 400 prophets together and asked them, “Should we go up against that city?”
The false prophets replied, “Yes, God will give you victory.”
Jehoshaphat wasn’t convinced by this united response. He asked Ahab if there wasn’t a prophet of God that they could ask. Ahab answered, “Yes, there is one, but I hate him as he never prophesies anything good; it’s always bad.” He referred to Micaiah, the son of Imla (see verse 7).
A messenger was sent to call Micaiah and tell him about the positive predictions and what the other prophets had said. He begged Micaiah to say the same thing and to say only what Ahab wanted him to say.
If the prophet had paid attention, he surely would have heard Ahab say these words, “Thanks, Micaiah, that’s what I wanted you to say.” However, Micaiah didn’t do that.
“And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil?’” (verse 17). And the king sent Micaiah to prison.
The next time we counsel someone and they tell us, “Thanks, this is what I wanted you to say,” let’s ask ourselves, “Did we think about what we said? Did our advice help the person?” If not, then, quite simply, our advice was a waste of time.