Finding and Being a Friend in Times of Crisis
Read Job 2 and Job 42:10
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity…they made and appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.”
In the book of Job, we often see his friends as antagonists and villains who came to make accusations against Job and add to his torment by falsely accusing him of wrongdoing. While we rightfully condemn their counsel, we often neglect to see their genuine concern and friendship with Job as they sought to comfort him in his darkest hour. Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” When we look closely at the introduction, we find that they were indeed this kind of friend. Their problem was in their theology of suffering, not in their love for Job. The book opens with a crescendo of events that completely shattered Job’s life. Utterly broken and hopeless, Job is left seating on an ash heap scraping the scabs of his boils with a potsherd. In the midst of his personal tragedy, his three friends arrive on the scene to encourage and comfort Job.
While we rightfully condemn the three friends for their mistaken theology and misguided counsel to Job, we cannot question their love for Job. When they heard of his plight they came to “sympathize and comfort him.” These words are rich in emotional impact as they identified with Job and wept with him because of his tragic circumstances. They revealed their deep concern for Job by joining him on the ashes and silently grieving with him for seven days. Fellowship is more than just giving a word of encouragement; it is entering into their world and being present with people during their times of crisis. This is what they did.
Nevertheless, Job’s friends were not perfect. Their attempt to encourage Job backfired as they made false assumptions both about Job and, more importantly, about God. As a result, their attempt to comfort and encourage Job only led to further pain and frustration. When we come to the end of the book, instead of Job needing to repent from his sin, it was his three friends who needed to repent of their presumptions they made about God. Sometimes, people in the church and the friends we have cause further pain even as they try to bring comfort. Sometimes the people who we trust and turn to in times of trials, fail to respond correctly. However, in this, we find Job given the opportunity to express his love back to them. In 42:7-10 we find the tables turned and Job having to sacrifice and pray for his friends. It would have been easy for Job, because of the pain they caused him, to turn against his friends and disassociate himself from them. But in verse 10 we find Job praying for his friends, that they would experience God’s forgiveness. What arrests our attention is the fact that it was not until after Job forgave his friends and prayed for them that God restored Job’s fortunes.
Fellowship is not just about caring for those facing trials, it is also about forgiveness when people fail, and they will. To be a part of the church requires that we experience the joys and sorrows of one another and readily forgive others, even when they have wronged us. Are there people in your life that need your comfort and encouragement? Are there people who have failed and wronged you that you need to forgive? Both acts are required for genuine fellowship. A true friend loves at all times, both in times of sorrow and in times when forgiveness is needed.