I’ve been re-reading Job recently, and I’ve been struck by the many ways Job’s friends acted morally and spiritually superior – even though they were wrong. They were wrong about what was happening. They were wrong about why. They were wrong about God’s silence, and they were wrong about Job’s response to it. They were wrong about almost everything. But, that didn’t stop them. And because they knew enough to sound credible, they caused Job tremendous grief.
Does that sound familiar?
Does anyone you know ask questions or offer insights that make you feel your struggle is somehow your fault? That God is withholding your heart’s desire, or punishing you for some reason? That His silence means He is ignoring your pleas? That you deserve the life you have – but not the one you want? That you should just give up and accept your fate?
Take another look at Job. You’ll get a new perspective on friends like that….
Job’s three friends came to comfort Job not long after his ten children and 11,000 livestock died (all in one day). Just before they arrived, Job broke out in painful sores from head to toe. When the friends saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him. “They began to weep… and sat with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
Many counselors call that the ministry of presence. The friends didn’t offer answers or explanations, only compassionate concern expressed through silence.
But then, Job voiced his feelings about his sudden suffering and they couldn’t resist the temptation to respond. They could not hold their tongues. Instead, they indulged themselves in judgment of the friend they’d come to comfort. They chose to “help” him by closing their ears and opening their mouths.
After withstanding as much as he could bear, Job responded: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” Does he sound comforted? Enlightened? Not at all. He’s angry, hurt, and resentful. These are not true friends — their words only compound his grief and make him doubt God’s faithfulness — and he lets them know it.
And then, Job says, “My intercessor is my friend, as my eyes pour out tears to God….” In other words, compassionate action speaks louder than words. Anyone who lifts me up in prayer when I am grieving or struggling is my true friend. If you want to do more than sit with me in silence, then actively intercede for me with the only One who can truly help me. That would bring me comfort.
Job’s words equip us to discern who will be the true friends along this journey. They are the listeners. The compassionate comforters who do not pretend to know the mind of God. The untiring intercessors who are driven by our tears to petition the only One with the power to change everything.
Do you have a friend like that? One who will stand by you throughout this journey? One who will pray for you when you are too exhausted to pray for yourself? If you are fortunate enough to have a true friend — or more than one — tell them what a blessing they are to you.
If you don’t have a single friend like that, don’t despair. You are not in this alone. Read the lyrics of this hymn (written in 1855) and know that you do have a friend who stands with you:
What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful,who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear. May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.”
Find more cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com, and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.