Or How NOT to be a Friend
The story of Job is a very familiar one. We are all well acquainted with the suffering and misery that Job endured at the hands of Satan. We all know of the incredible losses he sustained, and we know how the story ends. But as I have read these scriptures again over the last several days, I am moved not by the acts of Job, but by those of his three companions.
I suppose it has much to do with where I am in my life right now. A friend just lost her father after a long bout with a sustained illness. Another friend is going through a very difficult break-up and feelings of loneliness that overwhelm him. Yet another friend is going through a difficult situation and I have only compounded things with my own selfish demands. So right now, the thing I needed most was to hear how to be a good friend.
Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are good guys. They hear about Job’s tragedy, and they do not hesitate to drop everything in their lives to rush to be at his side. They give no thought to personal cost, distance to travel, or time away from their everyday lives. Upon first glance, these three men appear to be great friends to Job. They make their way to him, and are so moved by his emotional plight that they, too are compelled to mourn. They sit with him for seven days, commiserating, consoling and comforting Job – all without saying a word! What great friends! The end.
Nope. Not the end.
They couldn’t leave well enough alone. They HAD to start talking. They just HAD to throw in their two shekel’s worth of advice for poor, suffering Job. They HAD to try to FIX things!
What is it about us that makes us want to fix stuff? Even if we don’t have all the information, we will try to correct things in almost any given situation. I find myself doing it all the time. Something isn’t working right, “Ooh, let me see. I bet I can get it to work.” Doesn’t matter that I have very little mechanical ability! Why should that little tidbit of truth stop me? Someone tells me about some trouble in their life, “Oooh, I know JUST what you should do! First…this, then that and bang – all fixed!” Nevermind I probably have no clue – Why should that stop me?
I can empathize with Job. He’s not thinking clearly at the moment. He’s hurting. He’s mad. He’s clearly, and justifably upset. His response? VENT! He’s been in a pressure cooker for weeks! His emotions, his thoughts, his physical body have been under intense strain, and he needs to let off some steam! It happens to all of us. When we need to spout off, the LAST thing we need is someone trying to rationalize or FIX things! We just want you to listen. Shut up and just listen. You don’t have to agree. You can even think we’re wrong, but for now – Just be quiet. Once the explosion subsides, clarity returns and right thinking follows. Usually followed by the question, “What do you think?” NOW, you can interject. But tread cautiously, the pot’s still HOT!
Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar started out so well. They ARE great friends. But like most of us, they let their own discomfort cloud their judgement. They gave into their own needs instead of being sensitive to the needs of Job. What I learned through this reading is that I am just like them. Sadly. But I don’t want to be. I want to be the friend that thinks of the other person’s feelings first. I want to be the friend who is willing to sacrifice my own comfort for the comfort of another. I want to be a friend who knows when to be quiet. Ouch! That one hurt.
I’m thankful for this lesson. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see outside my own self, if even for a brief moment. And I’m thankful for this example in scripture of how to REALLY be a friend.