I may struggle with some of the issues addressed in the Book of Job, yet I am so glad to find Job was an authentic human being. Yes, there are attributes in his character and attitudes about life that really challenge me with my somewhat comparatively shallow faith; yet through it all, we see a real man. Someone who hurts as we hurt. Who struggles with the same big questions of life that we struggle with.
Job opened up his personal space to allow his friends to enter into his grief. He didn’t shut the door on them and run away and hide. He didn’t piously respond to their approach, and tell them that everything was fine and God had it all under control. He didn’t hide his grief and frustrations. He didn’t escape into a position of denial. He let it all ‘hang out’. He allowed himself to become totally vulnerable.
Even though he experienced the deepest of all sorrows and exhaustive pain and suffering, he acknowledged his need for human companionship. In doing so, he reveals to us the fact that we are created for relationship. We have been created, first of all, to have a relationship with God.
Secondly, we have been created to have relationships with other humans. God created Eve because He noticed Adam was lonely. The intimate relationship experienced between a husband and wife is extremely precious and wonderful. However, there is another level of relationship we can all thoroughly enjoy and that is the fellowship we have with close friends.
Grief is an interesting emotion, isn’t it? It is intensely personal – no one else really knows how we feel, no matter how hard they try. Then there is that internal conflict – I desperately want to be on my own to process my grief and yet I so desperately need someone else there to support me through it. I long to know someone else cares. I don’t want to be smothered but I dread being alone.
I find it interesting that when Job’s friends first arrived, they truly were great friends to have around. It wasn’t until they opened their mouths that the trouble started.
Yes, they came and took one look at Job and sensed something of the enormity of his desolation. Not only was he grieving but, on top of that, he was suffering agony from the sores covering his whole body. He looked a mess and was in a mess. The sight must have been horrific. I probably would have run a mile and left a message saying I would be praying for him and for him to let me know when the prayer was answered.
His friends were more caring than that. They assumed the most sympathetic and contrite attitude, and did you notice they sat on the ground with him for 7 days without saying a word? That is sympathy. That is empathy. That is true friendship. That was over and above the ‘call of duty’. These guys were proving that they were there for him ‘over the long haul’. Please don’t write them off completely – they tried their best, and I’m sure for those first 7 days, Job saw them as a gift from God.