Job’s Friends…

I have been thinking a lot about Job lately.  The book of Job tends to be one of the first stops one makes in the Bible when one is facing great struggle and loss in life.  I am no different.  I have been reading about Job’s faith…he was known as blameless and upright.  God saw him that way too.  We are given a glimpse into Heaven and the workings therein when Satan approaches God regarding Job.  Long story short, God gave Satan permission to take away all of Job’s blessings and wealth.  He was not allowed to touch Job himself, but Satan thought that would be enough to make Job doubt God.  Enough to make Job deny God.  He was wrong.  So he again approached the Lord and gained permission to afflict Job personally.  Again Satan thought it would be enough to make Job deny God.  Again Satan was wrong.

What followed for Job was a very difficult time.  He had lost his children, and all of his wealth and flocks in one day.  In one fell swoop.  He then lost his health and struggled with a very painful and isolating condition.  Though he has lost everything important to him, Job did not sin in his response to God.  Even when his wife encouraged him to “Curse God and die!”  (Job 2:9) he refused.

Here is where the story gets interesting for me.  Enter Job’s friends.  Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, all men who must have been good friends to Job.  When they heard what had happened to Job, they immediately went to their friend.  They intended to sympathize with and comfort their friend.  They obviously cared much for this man who had been suddenly and inexplicably stricken by one bad thing after another.  They wept, they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads in mourning and sorrow for all their friend was facing.  They sat in silence with their friend for seven days straight.  They really were good friends, men who really get a bad rap by most people. They left their families and their own lives to go and support and be with their friend at the time that he was most in need.

If only these men had continued to sit and support him in silence, they would probably be known as faithful friends and held up as examples of true love and friendship.  We all know that did not happen.

I think what probably happened was that Job’s friends felt they needed to say something “big”, something that was deep and spiritual and insightful.  I think they started to feel smart in the advice they were giving and lost sight of their friend and his needs.  So they kept talking and instead of being a comfort to their friend, they became a source of stress for him.  Sometimes a person who is struggling just needs to know someone is there for them, who will listen to them and support them.  Sometimes the last thing a person who is facing some hard stuff needs is someone trying to “fix” them.

All three of Job’s friends made some rather gross assumptions and ran with them.  There really was no fact to back up these assumptions, but that didn’t stop them from assuming them to be true and building a case on them.  They did not listen to Job, nor did they realize the flaw in their basis for thinking.  So they basically ran at the mouth.  God eventually rebuked them for this.  It was wrong, and it was exactly what Job didn’t need.

I know that what Russ and I are going through right now is not what Job faced.  At least not exactly.  Our unemployment and subsequent money problems have been a big struggle for us.  We lost the job, a relationship with a sibling, a car, a home, our health insurance, our savings account…it even has emotional effects on us.  It has affected our self-confidence and our ability to trust.  It has undermined our sense of security and “home”.

We are facing Job’s friends.  There are people who have come around us to comfort us and love us.  People who I am sure are true and loving toward us.  But some of these people continually point out what we have done “wrong” and what we need to do to fix it and make it all go away.  Some of what they say we did wrong is just plain wrong.  Or based on things we have done in the distant past but have not place in our lives now.  They feel that unless we hear them out and do what they say we must, we are gong to continue in our hard situation.  They do not listen and yet they make some very big assumptions about our life and situation.  They have become insensitive to the fact that we are hurting and feeling very alone. Sometimes things happen because life happens.

I find these people genuinely think they are helping.  They do not have a bad motive at heart.  But just like in the case of Job’s friends, their brand of “help” actually is making the situation seem worse.  It becomes difficult to keep our eyes off of the impossible and on Jesus.

I guess the lesson we should take away from Job’s friends is this:  It is good to come alongside hurting people, praying for them and just being there for them.  It can even be good to offer godly counsel.  But when we try to be wise in our own eyes and offer all the right answers rather than being sensitive to the painful spot others are in, we cease to be loving and helpful.  We become a burden on an otherwise heavy heart. When the things we say are based on erroneous assumptions and misinterpretation of scripture we may as well be sticking a knife in the heart of the person who is already wounded.  It ceases to be healing.   When we cease to hug someone and pray with them; when we seem to be doing all the talking then we probably have crossed the line between help and harm.  At that point it probably would have been better if we’d not come at all.

It is appropriate to examine our heart and see what our motivation is when coming alongside someone.  Job’s friends were right and caring and loving when their immediate response to their friends pain was to come to him.  They were right in mourning with him and remaining by his side silently supporting him.  They even could have been right in speaking to him had they remained sensitive to him and his pain.  Had they not assumed they “knew better” and forged ahead with their own wise words.  Are we there to love and to serve?  Or are we there because we know better and can “fix” our friend.

Something to think about!




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