Proverbs 17:17 -- A friend loves at all times,
I was reading Job again recently. It is starting to be one of those books I go to when I don't know where to start reading and I always seem to find something new or something that directs me where to go. A few years back I wrote a blog about Job's wife called "No Write Offs", which can be found on the blog page and is one of my favorites. Not knowing what to write this time around, I was led to look for inspiration in Job and found it.
Job was a man who worshipped and lived for God, which made him an immediate target for Satan who started by attacking Job's character. We know from reading 1 Peter 5:8 and Revelation 12:10 that Satan walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and that he is the accuser of the brethren, accusing them before God day and night. The book of Job begins with God asking Satan where he has been. He replies that he has been walking the earth back and forth, and these scriptures tell us what he was up to. God asks him if he has considered His servant Job, because He knows that Job has done nothing which can be questioned. Satan, being who he is, still manages to come up with an accusation, and this is my paraphrase. "Sure he seems like a saint and it is no wonder. You have protected him and given him everything. Anyone would love you for that. But I bet if you took it all away from him, he would curse you and turn his back on you."
God knew Job's heart, so he allowed Satan to take away Job's children, livestock and servants. We can't imagine the pain of losing one child, let alone 10 at one time. Despite this great suffering, Job did not sin or blame God. When Satan comes before God again, He asks what he thinks about Job's integrity in the face of tragedy. Again, that sly old fox says, "Sure, but let him suffer in his own body and there is no way he can keep up this act. He will definitely curse you if that happens." So God allowed Satan to afflict Job, with the only limitation being he couldn't take Job's life. Satan afflicted Job with boils all over his body. I have never had a boil, but I know some people who have. Just the one boil was extremely painful and nasty to deal with. I can't imagine the agony of having them from the top of your head to the soles of you feet. Still, Job remained faithful to God.
Job 16:1-5 --Then Job answered and said: "I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all!
This was the verse that jumped out at me when I was reading Job and got me thinking. Job is speaking to his three friends who had come to visit him. Their visit started with them weeping and tearing their robes upon seeing the condition of their friend. They sat with him for 7 days and nights saying nothing, just being there. It's great to have the comfort of friends who will just be there for you . . . their presence alone is a comfort. But then Job speaks and laments his condition, even cursing the day he was born. Instead of receiving comforting words or a hug or even prayer, his three friends start in on him. Just like Satan, they begin to attack his character. Surely Job's suffering is the result of some sin, they surmise. As Job said, they were not very good comforters. I had to agree with him and thought to myself what terrible friends they were. Immediately I felt a prick in my heart and heard "haven't you done the same thing?"
At one time or another we all have been guilty of thinking like Job's friends. When people come to us when they have a problem, how quick are we to point out what they've done that put them in that situation? Do we ever look at someone who is going through a tough time and wonder what they might have done to bring it on or wonder if God was trying to get their attention? Countless times over the years I have heard people ask "Well, did he or she smoke?" when told that someone had cancer. It is in our nature to want to find out the cause or find something or someone to blame when bad things happen. We even do it to ourselves. Why am I going through this? What did I do to deserve this? Bad things do happen to good people and to bad people alike. Matthew 5:45 says "for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust".
Job 6:14 --"To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
It isn't anyone's job to judge or condemn a person, and yet we do. Job told his friends that they should show him kindness, even if what they were saying about him were true, which it wasn't in this case. Job didn't need a lecture -- he needed the comfort of his friends. He needed someone to bring him fresh water and dressings for his injuries. He needed someone to bring him a meal. He needed someone to pray for and with him and encourage him. We need to do likewise for our friends in their time of need. If in the course of time, a friend confides that he or she has sinned, then we can pray for the person and prayerfully provide guidance. Galatians 6:1-2 says "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." We can't come at a person from an "I told you so" or "you should have known better" attitude. Everything we do must be done with the love of Christ at its center.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Job's friends thought they were doing the right thing and that they were helping Job by telling him he must have sinned or done something to deserve such a great punishment. Job knew he was innocent, but having someone say that to you is painful whether it is true or not. Their comments could have easily incited Job to curse them or to curse God. If a friend comes to us for comfort only to find judgment or rebuke, then where is he to turn? We certainly have not pointed him toward the Lord. We may have weakened him further to where he is more susceptible to things like alcohol and drugs for escape and comfort. He may find that his friends who are not Christian are more comforting and supportive. Instead of character assassins, we need to be loving comforters. John 3:17 says "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Matthew 7:1-2 -- Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Job's friends had judged him a sinner with no evidence other than tragedy had struck him and his family. We cannot leap to those kind of conclusions based on casual observation. It may be true or it may not be true, but it isn't any of our business it is between God and that person. We need to show mercy and compassion to those who are suffering, regardless of the circumstances. God could have judged Job's friends as they had judged Job. He was angry with them for not speaking right about Him. They had tried to judge Job and speak to him like they knew what God was thinking and doing and tried to speak for God. God directed them to take their burnt offering to Job to be burnt and that Job would pray for them. He said he would accept Job's prayer for them instead of giving them what they really deserved. It's just like when God sees what Christ did for us and forgives us instead of giving us what we really deserve. Therefore, let us heed the words of 1 Peter 3:8 which says "Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."
Truly a friend should love at all times. As good as the comfort of friends may seem, it is nothing compared to what we receive from our great Comforter.
2 Corinthinas 1:3-5 -- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.