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When we left our three friends in the previous post they were doing so well with Good Grief Guidance. But then things started to go terribly wrong. So wrong, in fact, that Job states:
“A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. . . . Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid. Job 6:14-17,
So what happened? The short answer is “they opened their mouths.” The longer answer is that they were wrong as to the reason for Job’s calamities. Forgive me if you think I am being too simplistic, but this is a blog post after all, not a dissertation! The ancients believed that there was a connection between one’s actions and the ensuing blessings or curses. If one is obedient to the commands of the Lord, blessings will follow. If one is disobedient, curses will follow. Hence, wealth is a sign of God’s favor. And we know from the first chapter of Job that he was considered a righteous man who had been blessed abundantly. As readers, we are privy to the behind the scenes machinations that lead to Job’s cataclysmic losses. However, his friends are not. Therefore, they assume that since his life has turned from blessings to curses, Job must have acted disobediently toward God.
So Job finds that not only has he lost almost everything, but his friends are now turning on him! He protests his innocence, but to no avail. His friends have assumed his guilt and are now intent on gaining his confession regarding his disobedience. Sadly, Job’s friends did not stand with him and they proved to be undependable in the midst of his despair.
So what does it mean to be a dependable friend to someone who is on a difficult journey? And how can we become a dependable friend? We as men are often too quick to diagnose things and then attempt to “fix” whatever we believe to be the problem. If you are one of these troubleshooting “fixer” types, your brain begins to erupt like lightning when a problem presents itself. You rapidly process facts, problems, possibilities, outcome scenarios and then, viola! You deliver the Coup de grace!
Unfortunately, we can be a bit to rapid with our conclusions. When our friends struggle it is easy (just like Job’s friends) to assume certain things without knowing all of the facts. Perhaps it would be better to suffer alongside of them, to listen to their lament, and be supportive as they search for answers. Job was part of a drama far bigger than he. He was a pawn in a powerful game which neither he nor his friends were aware of. Who know but that we and our friends are involved in a drama much bigger than we?
Job cried out for friends who would remain devoted even in difficult circumstances. What, then, is the key to the devotion, loyalty, integrity, respect and consideration that we all crave in our relationships? Love. Not the silly, saccharine kind of love portrayed in movies and television, but rather the kind that would lay down its life for the sake of another. A love that sacrifices itself for the benefit of the one being loved. St. Paul eloquently expresses the meaning of real love in his first letter to the Corinthians.
It’s too bad that Job’s friends did not have the benefit of this letter.
But we do.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8
So what constitutes a devoted friend? One who always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, always protects.
And now you know what the three friends did not. Will it change how you live?
What are your suggestions for remaining a devoted friend to those who are going through difficult circumstances? I want to hear your ideas!