Have you ever gotten some really bad advice before? Like really bad? Like “Sure, that yogurt’s a little old, but go ahead and eat it anyway” bad?
We’ve all gotten bad advice before, but have you given bad advice out? I sure have. In my experience, this comes from an overeagerness to share or the desire to be right or seem like the most intelligent person in the room.
“After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.”
2 Samuel 7:1-7, 17
I was so struck by this passage when I read it. Nathan gave some advice that I have heard and given many times. “If you feel like God is leading you to do that, then go for it.” Yet, in this case, that wasn’t the appropriate response and the Lord let Nathan know it.
What’s interesting to me is that God was with David so he could’ve given this whole spiel directly to the King, but instead he went through the messenger of Nathan. I have a suspicion that he wanted to teach Nathan something in this process too. What a humbling moment for both Nathan and David! They both had in mind what was going to happen, they both had an image painted in their minds about this topic, but they were wrong.
I wonder if David had prayed about this idea or if he just thought it was best. I wonder if Nathan thought about it for a moment before telling David to have at it or if he just responded based on gut instinct. I used to be the queen of the gut instinct advice. People would begin telling me their problems and I would just go with whatever my first instinct was about that topic. Sometimes it was good and helpful and other times it wasn’t, but I had this compulsion to fix and give lots and lots of advice. I thought I had the answers people were seeking – how foolish I was!
The older I get the less advice I give. As I grow and learn, I am coming to realize that I know a lot less than I think I do. While I’m still able to give good advice, I’m not as quick to bring it forth as I used to be. Instead, I now enjoy being a safe space for people to talk. I’ll ask them questions as they process through their issue(s), but I no longer am primarily concerned about being the one with all the answers. It’s so satisfying, when someone is sharing, to watch the Lord work in someone’s mind as they’re verbally processing.
I want to encourage you to try this for yourself. Spend your time listening instead of trying to solve or fix or have all the answers and see how the Lord works in those around you!
To go deeper: Read Learning to People