The Book of Job is a book many people turn to in times of suffering. It is a great lesson from God about trusting Him, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. Job teaches us that God does not need our understanding and He does not owe us any explanation for His actions. We learn to put our trust in God and allow Him to work in our lives, regardless of our understanding of our circumstances.
A little background… Job was a righteous man. He had a wife, many sons and daughters, servants, and large herds of livestock. God had blessed him with much because of his faithfulness and righteousness. To prove to Satan that a righteous man would still be faithful in any circumstance, God allowed Satan to test Job. During this test, Job loses everything and becomes very ill with boils and sores; he is about as low as man can get on this earth.
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
His very well-meaning friends hear of his affliction and come to offer support. I believe these three friends had Job’s best interest in mind when they arrived. They truly wanted to help. They sat with him for seven days and seven nights and said nothing, just mourned with him.
For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven.
Job’s friends came to mourn with him and comfort him, but as soon as the door was open for them to speak; they began a long, miserable debate about the reasons for Job’s suffering. They tell Job that it is his fault that he is suffering so. That the righteous do not suffer like this, that he needs to repent and God will make his troubles go away. Job knows in his heart that this is not the case, he is an innocent man. The friends tell Job that God only acts with justice and fairness. Therefore, they question Job…Who is Job to question God and His actions?
Job is confused and frustrated because he knows God is just, but he also knows that he has not done anything wrong. The debate goes back and forth throughout the book. The friends are on the attack, insisting that Job’s suffering is his own doing and he is getting what he deserves. Job continues to retort that he has done nothing wrong, and calls out to God for proof. God eventually rebukes the friends and blesses Job’s life even more than before, never offering an explanation.
The lessons I learned from Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar:
Get to know your friends. The Book of Job mentions more than once that Job was a righteous man in the eyes of the Lord. His friends apparently did not know and understand Job and his relationship with God. If they had spent the time to really get to know him, they would have believed and trusted that he was a righteous man.
Sometimes Most of the time, it is better just to listen to your friends. So many times we try to help our friends understand ‘the why’ or try to offer solutions to their problems, when all they need is comfort and support. When you listen, really listen to others, it is easier to understand what their needs are. There are times when they are looking for a solution to the problem or advice about what to do, but many times the only thing your friends need is prayer, an encouraging word, someone to lean on, cry with, or a comforting hug.
One of my fondest memories occurred during one of my eldest son’s hospital stays last year. At the time, he had an undiagnosed tumor on his spine, he was dealing with emotions he didn’t know how to express at 10 years of age. I spent much time in thought about what to say to him, how to help him deal, how to get him to express his emotions. His best friend came to visit and gave me a picture of what true friendship is. His 11-year-old friend climbed up into bed with him and just sat there next to him. They didn’t say anything, just sat. How awesome is it that his friend knew exactly what he needed at that moment, someone to just sit with him! He was so peaceful in that moment and it still warms my heart to think about the example those preteen boys gave me of true friendship.
When our friends do seek advice, avoid criticism. In the story of Job, we see the crushing effects of criticism. In a time that Job only needed comfort and support from his friends, they were arrogant and insensitive, only offering criticism and judgment. They made him question everything. If you do speak or offer advice, make sure it is an encouraging word. Job’s friends wanted to analyze his suffering and look for answers, but they only found misdirected ideas that God rebuked in the end. They did not help at all in this situation; they only made it worse for Job.
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33
Bottom line; just be there for your friends in their suffering. Don’t worry about what got them where they are, just make yourself available to them. There is no need to analyze and/or criticize every circumstance in life. Job’s friends did not know what was going on between God and Satan, they did not need to know, they just needed to be there to offer support for their friend. Don’t make the same mistakes Job’s friends made.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.