Friends. It is good to have them.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes at a distance, and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe, and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” ~ Job 2:11-13
God is teaching me a great deal about friendship in the book of Job. These men heard the terrible news about their mutual friend, and they sent word to one another and “made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him”. They took time out of their own busy, successful lives to come together and help a friend in need.
Job was in such bad shape, his friends did not even recognize him. We are told that he had sores head to toe (Job 2:7) that were itchy (2:8) and scabbed and oozing (7:5), he could not sleep (7:4) and what sleep he did get was plagued with nightmares (7:14), he suffered from bad breath (19:17) and weight loss (19:20), his skin was turning black and he was feverish (30:30).*
Wow, I do not ever want whatever Job had!
When they finally did recognize Job, his friends tore their robes and wailed and wept. Have you ever hurt like that for a friend? They were genuinely sympathetic and mourned with him for all that he had lost.
Here is something I found amazing: “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights”. These were friends of the greatest man in the East, so most likely they themselves were considered to be wealthy and wise men. Yet they tore their robes, threw dust on their heads, and sat in the garbage dump with Job. They were not social outcasts like Job, who was forced to live in refuse and isolation because of an unclean illness, yet they made themselves as outcasts to just be with their friend.
Am I willing to truly humble myself, even sacrifice myself, to just be with a friend? Or am I too busy, too “high and mighty”, to spend time with someone truly suffering and in need? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)
The other truly amazing thing about this is that no one spoke a word to Job. Sometimes the best thing we can say to someone in pain is nothing at all. A hand to hold, a hug, a meal, the gift of being there is what is needed far more than the sometimes empty words of encouragement we try to offer. Of course, there are times when words are needed and appreciated, but we ought to be sensitive to the situation and wait for the Holy Spirit to tell us when to speak and what to say.
If Job’s friends had remained silent, the book of Job would be much shorter indeed, and Job would not have suffered even more pain, this time from the well-meant yet harsh words of his friends. However, they were human, after all, and we all struggle with the need to justify ourselves and proudly explain how God works and why, when instead we should humbly admit that sometimes we simply don’t have a clue! How can we, mere men, honestly know or understand the ways of the Creator of the universe??
We don’t have all the answers, but we serve a God Who does. And He is trustworthy. Always.
“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” ~ Psalm 56:11 (KJV)
“But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” ~ Psalm 73:28 (KJV)
*Thanks to Warren Wiersbe and his book, Be Patient, for helping me in my study of the book of Job!