Job Chapter Two: With Friends Like These . . .

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Job chapter 2 got me thinking a lot about friendship and how we can really blow it, sometimes without meaning to, when it comes to supporting or helping our friends in times of devastation.  Having a callous response, or worse, having NO response at all, can ruin a friendship.  I have experienced this myself recently, and knowing what was to come in the next chapters as his friends started talking, this really hit home for me and made me think about how I respond to others in their times of need.  I don’t want to be a person who talks or blogs about how we are called to reach out to others, but never actually gets out of my comfort zone and reaches out to others myself.

So . . . 

English: An early engraving by Blake for the B...

English: An early engraving by Blake for the Book of Job (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three friends arrive to help “comfort” Job.  They weep when they see him, then sit quietly with him for seven days and nights.  When we are facing troubles, we expect our friends and family to reach out and offer empathy and sympathy.  Care and concern.  Expressions of support and encouragement.

One thing I’ve learned through my own periods of devastation is that you can be really surprised by the people who show up to support you, but, sadly, you can be even  more surprised by those who don’t.  Job’s wife told him to curse God and die.  How’s THAT for support and encouragement from someone who is supposed to love you and have your back?  His friends may not have turned out to be big encouragements, but at least they didn’t tell him he’d be better off dead.  

Your periods of devastation will show you how people really feel about you.

Job chapter 2 teaches us some important lessons about comforting our friends, even though Job’s friends don’t say anything and only show up near the end of the chapter.

First, just be there.

Be present.  Show up when you know someone is going through a tough time.  Act like you give a rip.  If you can’t show up, send texts. Emails.  Cards.  Make phone calls.  DO SOMETHING.  ANYTHING.  And keep doing it.  If ALL you do is send one text in a month when you know that someone you are close to is going through devastating circumstances, you aren’t showing concern for them, you are checking something off your to-do list.

And if you don’t do ANYTHING AT ALL, then you need to take a good look in the mirror.  Yes, reaching out to someone who is hurting can be inconvenient, and sometimes uncomfortable.  We are all super busy and have problems and concerns of our own.  But if you truly care about them, you will make an effort.

Second, be real about yourself and your struggles.

I’m learning that transparency and openness in relationships is important.  You have to have the freedom to talk about both the good and the bad.  

If you don’t have the freedom to be honest and open about your struggles with someone, then you don’t have a real relationship with them.  

That being said, you can’t help and support someone if you don’t know what is going on in their lives.  I’ve lived a vast portion of my life in the midst of people who don’t talk about their problems, sweep everything under the rug, and pretend everything is fine.  Know what the end result of that is?

Resentment, self-pity, and selfishness.

Stepping out and asking for help, exposing your hurt, vulnerability, and shame to others is hard.  I know what it’s like to have your vulnerability flung back in your face by someone from whom you expected to receive support or at least empathy.  You try to reach out and ask for support in your time of need, and get bitterness and resentment spewed on you because you haven’t noticed what they have desperately tried to keep hidden from the world.  Or you are ostracized and treated as if you never existed, because in order to acknowledge your pain and circumstances they would have to take a good long look in the mirror.  No thank you.  Too uncomfortable to do that.  Either way, it’s all about them.  Never mind that, as believers, we are called to encourage and uplift each other.

One of the toughest lessons in life to learn is that selfish people are selfish all the time.  I know.  I’ve been one, too.  Most of us are.  I’ve also seen first hand that if you don’t want to change, you won’t.  And even if you do want to change, if you don’t discipline yourself to renewing your mind, then you won’t change, because you can’t do it by yourself.  God has to be involved, but He won’t force it on you.  It requires your active participation.

Third,  shut up and LISTEN.

Don’t jump in and try to fix anything.  Just offer a supportive presence and an available ear.  As a fixer, this is one of my biggest struggles.  One of the things I am learning by studying the actions of Job’s friends is that I  need to listen more instead of trying to immediately find a solution.  I am a doer.  I have to be busy doing something.  I want to help someone with their problem if at all possible.

I tend to view sitting and listening as unproductive wastes of time, and I have  learned by experience that that isn’t true.  I need to be patient and listen to what is being said so I can truly know what, if anything, I can do to help.  Some things just don’t have a solution.  But having someone just listen to you and validate your feelings can be extremely healing to a person.

And for goodness sake, if you do feel the need to say something, don’t.  But if you do anyway, then don’t offer “Christianese” platitudes and don’t try to belittle a hurting person’s pain or make it all about you.  That isn’t helpful.  Like I mentioned above, someone going through devastating circumstances doesn’t need to hear about how they haven’t focused on your needs enough.

Job’s friends had it right, until they opened their big mouths.  Then they showed how they truly felt about Job, and added to the devastation he was experiencing.  You can be friends with someone for years, and one period of devastation will show you that you view the relationship totally differently.

I am not sure if Job’s relationships with his friends and family were ever restored, and I am not sure if mine will ever be.  I am certain, though, that both his and mine would never be the same.

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2 thoughts on “Job Chapter Two: With Friends Like These . . .

  1. Love this. I’d add that if a person has no idea what to say to a person who’s suffering, it’s ok to say that. People who wrote or came to see me or called just to say they didn’t know what to say have been a huge source of comfort and support. Of course they don’t know what to say (who does really??) but just in saying that, I knew they’d thought about it and I knew they loved me and that was plenty.

    • So true. We actually discussed this in my Spiritual Disciplines class at church last Wednesday. Our group’s case study was what to say to a person whose spouse just died and who was asking why God would allow it. We had various answers about sharing certain scriptures, etc. But having just gone through something similar, while at the same time entirely different, I know the truths of the Bible, but still ask those same questions, like Job. They aren’t so much looking for answers as they are looking for a validation of their feelings and confusion. And that’s ok. Job questioned his circumstances, too, and God repeatedly referred to him as righteous and full of integrity. His questioning wasn’t sinful. “I don’t know, but I’m here for you” is more often than not the best answer you can give, and the only answer you should.

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