Grace, grief, Hope, Pain and suffering

Definition of a True Friend

Life falls apart. Unfortunately, it’s simply part of this…life.

For example, Job lost everything. He lost his wealth, his servants, his children. Wave after wave of loss hit him, without time to even breathe between crises. He was left mourning, devastated, in despair.

When Job’s life first fell apart, however, he was blessed with some amazing friends who came alongside him. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite joined Job in his mourning.

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 1:13

Job’s friends stepped in and mourned with him, offering him the ministry of presence. Not a word was spoken as the attempted to absorb the magnitude of the situation. Then Job began to lament his fate, the loss of everyone and everything of importance. His words were filled with pain, anguish.

Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?…I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes. Job 2:11, 26

And that’s when Job’s friends turned on him.

Oh, they didn’t mean to turn on him. They thought they were being good friends, seeking to turn their dear friend from the error of his ways. They longed to see him repent of whatever sins plagued his life, whatever he had done to bring this calamity upon himself.

But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope? Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed? Job 4:5-7

Job, I’m sure, was taken aback. He was righteous, a man of integrity! How could his friends turn on him, think he had done something to bring about this calamity? Didn’t they know him better than that?

And yet the rebukes continue.

You must have refused water for the thirsty and food for the hungry. You probably think the land belongs to the powerful and only the privileged have a right to it! Job 22:7-8

Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you. Listen to his instructions, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored—so clean up your life. Job 22:21-23

But Job continues to cling to his innocence.

I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. Job 23:12

As we read through the book of Job, most of us are likely angry at Job’s three friends. After all, we know the back story.

Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” Job 1:8

Yes, Job had been specifically chosen by God to be tested, to face the trials of this life. He had been chosen not because of his sin, but because of his righteousness.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever walked through the trials of this life only to have your so-called friends lecture you instead of supporting you? Or maybe you have been the friend that tried to help correct someone who was suffering because surely he/she was responsible for the calamity in his/her life.

I’ve been both.

I’ve been the friend, failing to recognize the pain of my friend and instead accusing her of sin. Instead of being discerning and loving, I was judgmental and critical. Instead of simply ministering to her by my presence, I felt the need to correct her. Oh, how I wish I could go back and correct my words!

Even more so after I was the one devastated.

You see, I suffered a horrible divorce. As I struggled to get out of bed each day, overcome by the loss of my security, my dreams, overwhelmed by depression and confusion, I turned to my friends.

“You just need to pray more,” she said.

But my soul was in so much anguish I couldn’t pray. And, I wasn’t sure I trusted God. I needed others to pray for me.

“If only you had been a more supportive wife,” she said.

But in the deepest recesses of my heart I knew I had done everything I could to love and support my husband. I always put him ahead of myself, always put his wants and needs, his hopes and dreams, ahead of my own. When other husbands complained about a lack of support, my husband would tell of the love in our home.

“It was your nagging,” she said. “Your husband never would have sought comfort in the arms of another if you hadn’t nagged him to death.

But I knew I was kind, considerate, loving. I chose to love unconditionally and trust God with the rest.

“If you had forgiven the affair, your marriage would have been restored,” she said.

But only I knew how I had offered forgiveness, worked at reconciliation. I know how I not only extended forgiveness to him, but also to the woman he was sleeping with.

And as I struggled with the pain, the devastation, as I listened to the well-meaning but misguided words of my friends, no one knew how much my faith was shaken, how I wanted to run from God. No one knew how disappointed I was in a God who called me to marry this man knowing he would one day betray me. No one knew how torn I was about whether I should ever again follow this God who had failed me.

I’ve now come full circle. I’ve heard from my Savior, experienced His goodness and grace. I’ve seen Him heal my devastated heart and put my life back together. I’ve developed a love and compassion for others who are hurting.

And I’ve come to understand something: like Job, my devastation (divorce) was not the result of my sins. I don’t know if God had a conversation with Satan, but I do know God gave permission for my life to be tested. And He has used the trials to mold me into His image, to prepare me for a ministry He laid out for me in advance.

And I promise never to be one of those “friends” again. Ever.

From this day forward, my words will be encouraging, full of hope and comfort. I will remind others that God’s grace is always sufficient, that He works all things for good.

My words will be discerning, knowing the depth of pain and devastation. I will seek the wisdom to speak words always seasoned with grace and truth.

My words will be loving, words of compassion and empathy. They will reflect the same love the Father has lavished on me.

My words will be kind, words of life and gentleness. I will always try to remain fully aware of my own sins so I never become conceited.

I pray I will always be the friend others can trust to help them through the darkest days of their lives. Will you join me in making that commitment?

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20 thoughts on “Definition of a True Friend”

  1. Beautiful. In tears. God so restored the years that were taken from you by the locusts. He was right there with you as well the whole time.
    No one was able to help me through my major depression. My then husband told me to snap out of it. Friends could not comprehend or understand. They felt helpless.
    It took years before I could start living a somewhat normal life.
    The Lord has molded me and shaped me. I can do nothing apart from Him, nor do I ever want to.

    Blessings,
    Yasmen

    1. I am so sorry for the mistreatment you received when you should have been lavished in grace and love. Yes, He uses the trials of this life to mold us, to make us more like Him.

  2. This is a statement from Pastor John Piper’s article “Job: Rebuked in Suffering”, “Even though Job was a righteous man, he was not sinlessly perfect man. There was a sediment of pride that began to cloud the purity of his life when it was stirred by suffering. Elihu (the other friend of Job who only spoke lastly after the three) said that God’s purpose for the pain and sickness of the righteous is not to punish but to save–to save from contemplated evil deeds, from pride and ultimately from death. Elihu explains his view of suffering in one other place, 36:6-15. The helpful thing in these verses is that Elihu makes it clear that there is such a thing as a righteous person who still has sin that needs to be revealed and rooted out. There is much of the old nature left in them, and from time to time this old nature of pride breaks out in actual sinful behaviour–as it did with Job when he accused God of being his enemy. This is what Job repents of at the end of the book. Elihu’s teaching then is that affliction makes a righteous person sensitive to his remaining sinfulness and helps him hate it and renounce it. Now Job’s ear has been opened to his remaining imperfection. Now he can repent and be cleansed and depend on God as he never had before. His suffering was not only an occasion for God to get glory over Satan, it was also an occasion for God to deepen Job’s insight and trust and godliness”

    This helped me tremendously in understanding why the righteous suffer for thinha they might not deserve. Elihu is the friend who was not rebuked by God, he did not condemned Job like the other three but he did not also agreed of Job’s conception of God’s justice. Job insisted he is righteous so he could not make his suffering fit with the justice of God. He became so exasperated at times that he thought of God as his enemy. Elihu said that Job was wrong to justify himself at God’s expense like this. God was NOT Job’s enemy and Job is not as pure as he claims to be. God is in fact Job’s loving Father. He has allowed this suffering to drag on becauae He loves Job, not because he hates him.

    More blessings to us as God continues to refine us and conform us into His image.

  3. Thank you. This story is mine. The loss of my marriage to infidelity is still very fresh. Maybe I wasn’t cheated, maybe I was chosen. Pray I survive thus pain. Pray God will reveal what I am to do now, with my life. So many dreams, hope for the future are dying. I need to now what He wants be to do now.

    1. Yes! I truly believe He looks down and sees something in us, something that says we will point the world back to Him. It’s hard, so very hard. But, on the other side, I can truly look back and say I wouldn’t trade any of it. It has made me who I am today!

  4. I have been here most of my life. I still have not seen the reasons why. I have no friends because they tell me that everything bad that could happen comes to me. I am still trying to trust god but dont feel any hope in even living. I feel my 60 years have been wasted and would just like a break. I wish there was someone with skin beside me. I fail to see the purpose of all the suffering. I feel I will die before any fields are restored or love felt. I believe in God’s word but dont feel his love. I hold on

    1. I’m so sorry Jan. I don’t know the road you have walked or how hard it has been. I am 46 and can understand how it feels to be so lonely. It’s hard to describe how lost I have felt and how meaningless I feel in this life. I too believe in God and am hanging on for dear life. All I can say is that even the smallest and simplest of gestures can touch and change someone’s life for the better. A heartfelt word of encouragement and so on. Those seemingly small gestures from someone became big things for me and helped me to keep going. I try and do that for others no matter how lost, lonely or unworthy I feel and more often people don’t seem to notice, but every once in a while I see a spark that lights up in them and that makes all the difference. I will pray that Father God will bless you with some good friends who will support and love you for who you are. God bless you.

      1. I will pray for both of you. I know how hard it is. I wish I could give you a magic formula, but I can’t. Just seek Him. Make Him your first priority. Don’t ask for anything except Him, His presence. I know He won’t disappoint.

  5. It is very difficult to wade through the pain when you have done everything you can do to address every issue and every complaint that your partner makes against you. And they still continue to move towards divorce. There are times when we just have to lie in God’s arms, endure the pain and ‘stand’ as in the battle between God and the devil. We will never be the same. We will be changed forever but only we will have knowledge of God’s faithful love as he stands beside us.

    1. Yes, it is! We are forever changed, but it’s for the better. I like Divorced Dena much better than Perfect Dena. God takes our pains and makes something beautiful out of them and transforms us in the process.

  6. I recently found your blog and have enjoyed your unique perspective on life and God. Thank you for your hard work and may God bless you greatly!

  7. Oh how I feel the same slap and sting of divorce. A divorce I never wanted or seen coming. Twenty three years of a life built together a home children a family and in one swift move taken. Just taken. I believed my God was big enough to restore and reconcile and I waited. I don’t understand how and why. I struggle with believing there is a greater purpose. It’s been two years of watching him win at everything while I struggle to survive. Two years of her living in my home that still bears my name in my place. Her dishes in my china cabinet. I struggle with anger at him her myself and yes even my God.

    1. Oh, Kim. I am so very sorry. I know the struggle. I was so angry at God, couldn’t understand how He could fail me and not answer my prayers. Truthfully, I think my ex was tormented with his choices for the rest of his life. He never would have admitted it. He pretended to be happy. But deep down, I think the weight of his choices destroyed him. I encourage you to start with surrender. Ask God to take this mess, to do a mighty work in you so He can do a mighty work through you. Look to Him and trust Him with this mess. You will be amazed at His love and faithfulness!

  8. I have been both friends, too, and God has most definitely used this trial of marriage falling apart (probable divorce) to humble me. One of many blessings already seen.

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