As I was reading through the book of Job, I noticed a prayer I had written in the margin, “Please, Lord, keep me from being like one of Job’s friends.” As Chapter 2 explains, his friends started out well. When they saw Job’s great suffering, they sat silently with him for 7 days.
Unfortunately, they decided remaining silent with Job was not enough. They began offering advice and spiritual “wisdom.” They blamed Job for his condition and made suggestions what he should do to get right with God. Even when they spoke truth, their timing and motives were skewed.
I have several wonderful friends. One quality they all share is their compassionate ability to listen. Yes, they challenge me and remind me of truth, but they are more interested in being there for me than providing me with good advice.
Over the years and moves, I have known people who mean well, yet with them, I felt guarded with or even misunderstood. When Mike was gone for a year in Korea, I can’t tell you the number of people who said, “The time is going so quickly!” For me the year did not pass quickly! Every day seemed long, so I felt even more alone when people said that.
Another time I don’t feel heard is when someone offers a spiritual platitude or verse in response to deep grief or disappointment. For example, when someone says, “God’s timing is always right” or “God works everything together for good.” Without a doubt these are true, yet I think when someone has been waiting a long time for God to answer a prayer, and sees God more quickly answering the prayers of those around them, these truths may not bring comfort, but doubt or confusion. A friend will remind them how precious they are to God even if He seems silent. Until the suffering one can see God’s light shine forth, a friend “bears all things” remaining with them as a reminder God will never leave them or forsake them.
People who have not experienced depression, grief or chronic illness may not realize the tentacles that strangle out joy and energy from everything. To recommend a simple answer like a book or sermon, exercise or change in diet trivializes the suffering someone faces. To suggest that the person move on or not dwell their condition is as impossible advice as suggesting they grow 6 inches taller.
Sadly, texts and e-mails may enable us to be more like Job’s friends. It is too easy to write off a quick response and without really hearing what our friend is saying.
It is easy to let too many weeks or months or years go by without reminding someone we care.
It is too easy to assume the God would instruct our friend in the same way and on the same path He has led us.
Friendship is very rewarding, but maintaining true friendships take time and effort. Sitting with someone in their pain and waiting for answers from God is not comfortable. When I think about it, being a true friend is impossible. However, thankfully nothing is impossible with God. He can transform me from being a friend like Job’s to a friend like Jesus.