Today’s reading: Job 5-7.
A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following:
“One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is inviolable.”
“One who understands our silence.”
“A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.”
“A watch that beats true for all time and never runs down.”
The winning definition read: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
Bits & Pieces, July, 1991.
Job, sitting on his ash heap, would have been happy to have any of the friends described above. Instead he found himself with what he called “miserable comforters.” His three friends started out so well. They traveled far to see him, grieved at his misfortune, and sat with him silently for a week. Their efforts at encouragement fell apart when they felt they had to respond to his complaints with explanations. Job goes on to explain to them what kind of friends he really needed, and where they were failing him.
Friends should be dependable in season and out of season (6:16-17). It’s easy to be a friend when times are good, but true friends hang in there when their buddy is on the hot seat. Sickness, financial distress, marital discord, legal problems – these are the times when a friend is most needed and when true friends prove themselves.
Friends don’t disappoint you when you count on them (6:18-19). Trust takes long to develop and is so quickly lost. Job thought he could trust his friends, but they let him down by not standing up for him.
Friends don’t shrink back in fear but face your trial beside you (6:21). Job was a physical mess, perhaps even a horror. There was also the possibility that God himself was responsible for Job’s misfortune. His friends shrank back in fear of Job’s appearance and with anxiety about standing up for someone who might be at odds with the LORD.
Friends aren’t afraid of what you might ask them to do (6:22-23). Job hadn’t asked his friends for anything but their compassion and encouragement. Yet he felt they were acting like he might take advantage of them.
Friends overlook rash words (6:26). Job admitted his words were “impetuous.” He wanted his comforters to act like true friends and judge him for his actions rather than his words spoken in anguish.
Friends trust you and your character (6:28). A true friend believes the heart of his companion more than what circumstances seem to say.
Friends keep an open mind (6:29). Rather than sticking to preconceived ideas or making a hasty judgment, a true friend will weigh all the evidence before making a decision.
The chapters and arguments that are coming will make it clear that Job’s friends failed to remember his character. They feared that his calamity would spread to them. Most of all, they forced a false premise onto his plight, insisting that his suffering was proof that he had transgressed against God.
Image by Live Life Happy on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0.