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With Friends Like These…


His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:9-13, NLT)

What do you say to someone who is suffering? Often, people tend toward two extremes. Some will say wrong things, while others will say nothing out of fear of saying wrong things. Job’s suffering was great, and the conclusion of chapter 2 provides some helpful advice that we can put into practice.

Let me begin with the positive responses. First, Job’s friends came to be present with him. They didn’t avoid him and the suffering he experienced. Second, they were authentic. They threw dust in the air and demonstrated concern by tangibly showing their grief. Rather than exhibiting the stiff upper lip, they tangibly mourned alongside him. Third, they were silent. They didn’t speak a word. After all, what could one say? Finally, they stayed. For a full seven days they sat with him.

If you know the story of Job to any degree, you already know that the silence would eventually be broken and words would be spoken. Job’s wife and his three friends would all respond to his suffering in four unique ways, none of which proved helpful.

Take Job’s wife, for example. Her response was accusatory. In so many words, she demanded that Job either give up his claim to righteousness or give up his life. Blasphemy was viewed in ancient culture as punishable by death. They believed God would strike one down for cursing his name.

Job’s three friends spoke as well. There is Eliphaz, the prophet. His response to Job was based on experience and observation. He said, “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same” (4:8). Next is Bildad, the traditionalist. He surveyed Job’s suffering based on the traditions handed down from previous generations. “But those who came before us will teach you. They will teach you the wisdom of old” (8:10). By far, Bildad the traditionalist was the most vicious speaker of the three. That leaves the third friend, Zophar the rationalist. He believed that the answers to suffering are found in reason and logic. His words are pragmatic, redundant, and cliche. “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea” (11:7-9). Sounds like a bumper sticker, doesn’t it?

Job’s wife and friends shared the same conviction expressed from different angles. That is, the belief that Job was being punished for some sin he committed. They also believed that if he would appease God his suffering will end. And Job refused to have anything to do with any of it.

Which left Job with one final loss–his relationships. He is alone in his suffering.

It’s always easier to diminish God than it is to increase faith. Job is grasping for faith which is hard to do when you are suffering. It’s even harder to do when you are alone.

Categories : Job, Unfair

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