What are friends for?
Scripture reading for May 20th: Job 4-7
Friends are a precious gift to any person! It seems that as we go through life, close friends who we can share our hearts with are few and far between. I am blessed with a close friend in my wife. She is God’s precious gift to me in the area of friendship. I also have several men who are friends I can count on. But outside of your mate, friends who will stick with you and speak honestly to you through thick or thin are not that easy to find. I think this is partly because of our own selfishness and ingrained patterns of sin. We have trouble trusting others ourselves and as we live life, we come to see that each person has his own load of faults and own walls of self-defense. So the gift of friendship is something special that must be cultivated over time by building trust and through shared experiences that help you bond.
Job was in the thick of his personal crisis. He had lost his material possessions and his children, and now had lost his health as well. His body was covered with sores and he itched and ached. Worms infested the sores and he could find no rest day or night. His skin was disfigured and he was sickly and emaciated. He was just a shadow of his former self and at this point had no answers as to why this was happening to him. His own wife had advised him to curse God and die. Three friends were there with him. The passage we are reading today is the advice of Eliphaz, the Temanite, as he speaks to try to help his friend.
Eliphaz was giving advice from the world-view of his day (and ours sometimes). That world-view stated that God punished the wicked and He rewarded the righteous. Any suffering was the result of some sin and God was correcting your wickedness. If you would confess and be honest about your sin, God would restore and heal you. Eliphaz got this revelation from a personal experience with a “spirit” and by learning from personal observation. (Job 4:12-21) This worldly understanding was not the truth in Job’s case. God had allowed Job’s suffering for His own reasons and had Himself declared Job righteous before the suffering began! (Job 1:8)
Job knew his own heart and his integrity would not let him confess to something he did not know about. He would not try to manipulate God just to get everything back. Rather than being comforted by Eliphaz’s words, he was made even more miserable! (Job 6:21) Job went to God in prayer for the help he needed and the answers his friend could not give! (Job 7:17-21)
As I read this discourse, I am reminded of my need for compassion for those who suffer! It is so easy to judge them from my own worldly wisdom! God’s ways are above our understanding and we cannot always know the whole story through our own revelation or personal experience. Listening closer is wise! Waiting on the Lord and encouragement is a wiser course of action. My prayer: “Help me O Lord, to be a better friend to those who suffer!”