Do Better Than Job’s Friends

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Job had been sitting on the ground in misery. Everything had been taken from him. He showed amazing restraint after losing all his possessions. Even more incredible self-control was on display when he was told about the death of his children. Even after being afflicted with a painful illness, even after his own wife told him he should just curse God, Job still would not do it. In fact, the Bible says that he worshiped (Job 1:20)! However, everyone has a breaking point. When three of his friends came by they sat with him for seven days. Afterward Job finally speaks and curses the day of his birth. Understandable? Yes, I think so. But I’m sure at the time what he said was shocking to his friends. Job just wants to die.

Now here’s what I want you to consider. If one of your friends (who is suffering for some reason) went on a ten-minute rant cursing the day their mother gave them birth how would you reply? Yes, they are hurting but what they said offended your sensibilities. What you want to do is let them have it, right then. You want to tell them how they’re so wrong to talk that way, how they better snap out of it and be a little more grateful for the good things God gave them. And that’s what Job’s friends did. In the first reply Eliphaz says “Call if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Resentment kills a fool and envy slays the simple” (Job 5:1-2). Of course, this damages their friendship. Job later says “Now you too have proved to be of no help” (Job 6:21).

I suggest that in times of pain and crisis sometimes people say things that they don’t really mean. Some of these things will seem insulting to you. You might have some righteous indignation when they question God’s plan or justice. However, wisdom shows us that instead of replying right away there are times when it is a good idea to wait until they (and you) have calmed down. That remains true even if you are personally insulted: “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16). When someone is struggling they will appreciate your loving presence much more than your indignant snap-judgements on something that was misspoken due to pain. In my experience nine times out of ten the person apologizes later anyway. If you remember love is patient and love is kind you will be way more helpful than Job’s friends.

Doug Wells
Camden Avenue church of Christ
Parkersburg, WV

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