With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Today’s Scripture: Job 10-13

I’m sure you have heard this before: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”  It is a phrase that is often used to describe those who claim to be your friends, yet are not very friendly in the way they treat you.  Unfortunately, we read in the Bible that Job had these kinds of friends.  Their names are Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  Perhaps you have met them before.  Most of the book of Job is a conversation that takes place between Job and these individuals.

In the opening chapters of the book, we read of how Job’s life was attacked by Satan.  He lost his fortune and family all in the same day.  Next, he was struck with a plague of painful sores that reeked havoc on his body.  His wife even encouraged him to curse God and die.  Upon learning of his problems, Job’s three friends come to offer their help.  If his losses were his first difficulty, and if his sores were his second difficulty, his friends would prove to be a third and perhaps most frustrating difficulty.  At first, the Bible says that they come and simply sit in silence with him to offer him some comfort.  Had they remained silent, it would have been to their advantage.  Instead, they opened their mouths and tried to solve all of Job’s problems by offering him unsolicited and insensitive advice.  They mistakingly assumed that tragedy and suffering in life represent some kind of punishment for sin.  According to their wisdom, Job was suffering because of an area of unconfessed sin in his life.  Job’s friends believed that no innocent person would suffer like Job was suffering.  They were wrong.

One of the hardest issues that people often have with coming to faith is the subject of suffering.  Their reasoning goes something like this: “If God were truly loving, then why would He allow so much pain and suffering in the world?”  Such reasoning is short-sighted and ill informed.  We tend to forget that the ultimate reason for suffering in the world is the presence of sin and its consequences in the world.  The whole created order is groaning because of Adam’s choice to sin against God.  And, we must remember that there is no such thing as an “innocent” person because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  At the same time, it is also true that sometimes we suffer by no fault of our own.  Such was Job’s case.  We must never assume that simply because God loves us He will always keep us from suffering.  He loved His Son, but He allowed Jesus to suffer because of the greater result.

I have learned that the best response to another’s suffering is a silent presence.  For whatever reason, we often feel that we must say something spiritual and insightful to someone in pain.  Maybe what that person needs most is a shoulder to lean on and the quiet presence of someone who cares.  He or she may need your compassion more than they need your advice.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  True friends will stick with you through the tough times, and their sympathetic presence will mean more than anything else.  So, be a real friend to someone who is hurting by simply letting them know that you are there.  Offer to pray for them and with them, but don’t feel like you have to come up with answers.  Don’t be like Job’s friends who brought him more misery than they did comfort!

“Father, help us to be real friends to those who are in need.  Help us to be compassionate and tender.  Jesus is our Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  We are grateful for Your ever present help in our times of trouble.  Amen.”

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