A Sufferer Needs a Friend

tisfriendIf you are familiar with the story of Job you would probably agree with me that his friends were awful counselors. Their advice was not helpful for Job, on the contrary. With their false assessment that his suffering  was the result of his sin they only made matters worse. On top of it all, they misrepresented God. Job’s friends are not skilled physicians of the soul.

However, there is still something we can learn from these men. Job chapter 2 provides us with their initial response when tragedy strikes for Job. And this they did well. Their reaction points us in the right direction how we should respond when our brothers and sisters are confronted with serious hardship.

  1. They visit Job – When the friends hear about all Job’s troubles, “they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to sympathize with him to comfort him” (v. 11). They could have chosen to stay home. But their friend is in need. They make the effort to go and see him.
  2. They have compassion for Job – When they meet Job, they’re shocked. They hardly recognize him. They begin to weep aloud, tear their robes and sprinkle dust on their heads (v. 12). This was the ancient tradition of showing mourning. They enter into his grief.
  3. They listen to Job – For seven days and seven nights they sit on the ground with him. And “no one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was“ (v. 13). This was not the time to preach a sermon. It was a time for pastoral silence as Job groaned.

When our brothers and sisters are suffering we often err in one of two ways. We don’t know what to do or what to say, so we avoid them. Or we flood them with well-intentioned and possibly true words to cheer them up but with little eye for their hardship. Job’s friends remind us that our first reaction should be one of compassion, not of trying to say something profound. A sufferer needs a friend..