What Job’s Friends Did Right

"Job's Friends" by James Tissot (CC-PD)

“Job’s Friends” by James Tissot (CC-PD)

Once word spread about Job’s tragic misfortune, three of his friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—traveled to visit and mourn with him. Generally, nothing wonderful is made of these men due to the flawed counsel they offered Job. But their companionship is something they model that we should emulate.

The Pervasiveness of Trouble

Hard times hit us all…no one is immune. Sometimes trouble comes crashing in on us unexpectedly; at other times we bring it upon ourselves. Whatever the case, the toll on a person can be significant in every way.

Job didn’t have just a single problem that stressed him; instead, he dealt with compounding heartaches—financial ruin, the tragic deaths of his children, a hideous and disfiguring disease, and the loss of a supporting wife. We need not wonder about the toll it took on him because he tells us: “May the day of my birth perish and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’…may it turn to darkness” (3:3-4).

How to Help Others

Fortunately, Job had people who cared enough to come see about him, folk who let him know that he didn’t have to face his cares alone. And thousands of years later, the necessity of a ‘crying shoulder’ or person to lean on hasn’t changed. No matter how spiritual we may be or how much faith we possess, we have limitations and will experience emotional pain. But hardship is eased by meaningful relationship.

Here are some pointers I’ve learned helping others and needing that help.

  • Don’t be silent. In high school I had a friend whose mother was killed in a car accident. I never spoke to him about the situation, although I really wanted to but didn’t know how. The problem with silence is…it’s so loud. It becomes the evidence that everything is known, but for some reason you’re not acting; and then it becomes stigmatizing. It shames the one who is hurting, the one who wants to be heard and have his burden shared. Find a way to show care, even if it seems awkward at first. You’ll find your feet as you go.
  • Don’t pity people. Pity makes us feel sorry for folk and glad that we don’t have to live as they do. It is love from a distance, which is no love at all; and it keeps us from feeling people’s pain. Pity disgraces people and makes them feel bad about themselves. It is not the love of God, and it restrains us from getting involved.
  • Don’t turn people into their trouble. Regardless of an individual’s predicament or how they got into it, they are still persons whom God loves and those he requires us to love. If we’re not careful our moral stances can make us calloused toward folk we identify as offenders. But people are not their problems and they can change. If we don’t believe this, then we don’t have authentic Christian faith.

Read more: Helping Others Grieve

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5 thoughts on “What Job’s Friends Did Right

  1. This addresses a lot of the awkwardness that comes with trying to comfort someone. There is always a lot of unspoken thoughts as I assess and then reject words I want to say. But at the end of the day, it is all about being there for the person and being genuine in our concern.

    • I love your “assess and…reject” concept because it’s true for most people. But you’re right–it’s all about being present and consoling. Thanks, Stephen.

  2. Good practical tips here and way to go on giving Job’s friends some slack! 🙂 Seriously, it’s true. At least they showed up and stayed with Job while he was going through this. And besides, we get to learn a lot from their misguided advice.

    • Love your last point…we get to learn lots from their advice. I discovered how much I was missing in Job once I read it in a non-functional Bible version. The dialogue sprang to life! I must say that Elihu is one of the most captivating persons in the book. Thanks for reading, Mel!

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