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?