We’ve been looking at the book of Job. We’ve talked about how all sorts of terrible things have happened to Job, but that Job was able to handle all of it. We’ve talked about how what helped Job handle it was that Job understood who God is—that God is better and wiser and stronger than he or any human being could ever hope to be, that God does not owe us anything, and that we have no right to judge anything that God does or does not do.
But even so, Job was still living in terrible pain. He still had painful sores all over his body. His faith helped him deal with things, but it did not make the sores go away, and it did not make the sores any less painful.
And before we go any farther, let’s just talk about that a little bit, because that applies to our lives, too. Some of us are going through serious health problems, and others of us have loved ones who are. And we have faith, and that helps, but it does not make the problem go away. I’m not saying that it cannot. God is all-powerful, God can do anything, and we all know of people who were miraculously cured of things. But most of the time, that’s not how it works. Most of the time, even though we have faith, we still have to deal with whatever illness or injury we’re dealing with.
That was true for Job, too. He still had to deal with the pain of those terrible sores. And of course, word spread about what had happened to Job. Job was a wealthy man, so it would not have taken long for the story of his ruin and misery to get around. So three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—get together to go and sympathize with Job and to comfort their friend.
They come, and they cannot believe their eyes. We’re told that they could hardly recognize Job. But they came, and they stayed. And for that week, they just sat there. No one said a word to Job. They just stayed there and sat there with him.
We’re not told what Job thought about that, but it may have been the best thing his friends could have done. You’ve heard me say before that one of the best things we can do for people is just be there for them. Just let them know that we know what’s going on and that we care. And a lot of times, to do that, we don’t need to say a word. All we need to do is be there.
But so many times, we don’t do that. And we come up with lots of reasons why not. I’m too busy. I don’t know them that well. I wouldn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t know what to do. There’s nothing I really can do, anyway. What good would it do for me to just go sit there when I cannot do anything? On and on and on, with all these reasons why we should not go and be there for someone who’s hurting. And don’t think I’m pointing fingers here. The reason I know all those excuses so well is that I’ve made them many times myself.
The point is that almost all of us make them. We make them out of fear, out of discomfort, out of selfishness, or for any number of reasons. But because we make them, we miss chances to help people who are hurting. Because a lot of times, it does not matter how well we know someone. It does not matter what whether there’s anything we can do to help. It does not matter whether we know what to do or what to say. Many times, the best thing we can do is the easiest thing to do. It’s what Job’s friends did, at first, anyway. It’s to just sit there and be with someone. Not saying anything, and not doing anything. Just being there and letting them know we care.
You’ve heard me say this before, but I truly believe that’s the reason God put us into groups—so we could be there for each other. Think about it. God would not have had to have humans live in families. After all, lots of animals don’t have families—once the young are grown, they go off on their own and don’t seem to have any feelings for their parents. God would not have had to have humans live in communities—some animals do, but a lot of them don’t. God would not have had to have us come together in churches to worship God—there are plenty of people who believe in God who don’t go to church very often.
The reason God put us into families, into communities, into churches, is that God knows life can be awfully hard sometimes. It’s too hard for us to go through by ourselves, and we’re not supposed to try. We need each other. We need to support each other. We need to encourage each other. We need to love each other.
That’s why we have a prayer emphasis on people who feel alone. When all this happened to Job, he must have felt terribly alone. Even his own wife had told him he should curse God and die. Job must have felt as alone as it’s possible to feel.
Job needed his friends. He need them to be there for him. We all need people to be there for us. And we need to be there for others. Not to say anything, necessarily, but just to be there for each other. That’s the only way we can all make it through.
In fact, sometimes it’s when we open our mouths that we mess things up. And that’s what happens with Job’s friends. They start talking, and they go on and on and on. Chapters three through thirty-seven are Job’s friends talking to Job, and Job responding to what they have to say. We just pulled out a little snippet of it, less than one chapter. You’re welcome.
Job’s friends go on and on, but they basically have one message. That message is this: Job, you messed up. The reason all this stuff happened to you is because of your sin. You’ve sinned and God is punishing you for it. The only way this is possibly going to end well for you is if you go to God and confess your sins and repent.
Now, we’re not told anything about the motivation of Job’s friends when they said this. I’m not going to assume any bad intent. They may have truly believed what they told Job, and they may have thought it was something they needed to say. I don’t know.
What I do know is that if there is anything less helpful that Job’s friends could’ve said to him, I don’t know what it would be. What they said was not supportive, not encouraging, and not loving. In fact, as we know from the first couple of chapters of the book, it’s not even true. I mean, yes, the Bible tells us that we’re all sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness, but that’s not what’s going on here. Job was not being punished by God for his sins. Job is described as blameless and upright. These things have happened to Job because God accepted a challenge from Satan. Satan said that if all these things happened to Job, Job would curse God. God agreed to let Satan do them, confident that Job would stay faithful. Now, as far as we know neither Job nor his friends knew that, but Job knew enough to know that God was not punishing him for his sins. He knew that what his friends were saying was not true.
So that’s one lesson right there: don’t assume we know what’s going on in a situation when we don’t. But even if what Job’s friends were saying had been true, it would not have been very helpful. If what they were saying was true, what they’d have been saying to Job is, Job, it’s your own fault that you’re in this mess.
How any of us have ever been in a mess of our own making? Yeah. I’m not saying how often it happens, but it happens more often than I wish it did. And when it happens, it’s really not very helpful for someone to come up to me and say, “Well, it’s your own fault that you’re in this mess.” The chances are I already know that.
It’s like the old story about the boy swimming in the river. Have you heard this one? This kid is swimming in the river and he accidentally gets into deep water. He’s scared he might drown, so he starts hollering for help. A man hears him and stops and starts chewing him out for being so careless. The kid says, “Please, sir. Save me first and scold me later.”
When someone has things going wrong, telling them it’s their own fault that things are going wrong is not going to help them. The chances are that they already know that. And even if they don’t, assessing blame does not do any good. Maybe later, after the crisis is over, there’ll be time to look at what happened and how things got to be the way they were. But when someone’s in the middle of the situation, they don’t need us to help them assess blame. They need us, again, to support them, to encourage them, to love them. They need us to let them know they’re not alone. They need us to let them know we care about them. They need us to let them know that we’ll stand by them and do anything we can to get them through this situation. Even if, as we said before, all we can do is sit there with them.
When Job’s friends did that, they were doing the best thing they could do. They were giving him support and encouragement and love. They were letting Job know they cared about him. They were letting Job know he was not alone. Let’s follow that part of their example. Let’s stop making excuses, and be there for each other. That’s why God put us together—so we can be there for each other and love each other.