Reflecting on Job 16–17, D. A. Carson observes,
There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals. This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments; it is the fault of the “miserable comforter” who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clichés that they grate rather than comfort. In times of extraordinary stress and loss, I have sometimes received great encouragement and wisdom from other believers; I have also sometimes received extraordinary blows from them, without any recognition on their part that that was what they were delivering. Miserable comforters were they all.
Such experiences, of course, drive me to wonder when I have wrongly handled the Word and caused similar pain. It is not that there is never a place for administering the kind of scriptural admonition that rightly induces pain: justified discipline is godly (Heb. 12:5–11). The tragic fact, however, is that when we cause pain by our application of theology to someone else, we naturally assume the pain owes everything to the obtuseness of the other party. It may, it may—but at the very least we ought to examine ourselves, our attitudes, and our arguments very closely lest we simultaneously delude ourselves and oppress others.
–D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word (vol. 2; Wheaton: Crossway, 1999), entry for February 17. (This book is available for free as a PDF from TGC.)
I compiled lists of what to say and not to say to people who are suffering in an address on the logical and emotional problems of evil. Abbreviated forms of those two lists occur at the end of this four-page essay. Would you add anything to those lists?