Argumentative. Assuming. Accusing. Mockers. Ridiculers. Insensitive. Sarcastic.
These are all words that don’t sound pleasant to have in a friend—or in the case of Job, in multiple friends. Throughout the entire story of Job found in the Bible, Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job 2:11) displayed what bad friends look like. All three of them fit into the descriptive words I listed at the beginning.
But, before I get into that, they did get one thing right: they cared enough to weep for him and be present (Job 2:12-13). This is the only positive thing I saw in their treatment and response to Job’s losses.
It’s surprising to me their first response in action was to sit “with him on the ground seven days and seven nights” (Job 2:13). How often do you see or hear stories like this, where people gave their friends room to grieve and allow the process of healing to begin, especially for seven days. That’s a long time to just sit there in silence.
However, it becomes evident what Job’s three friends were thinking: what sin did Job commit to receive all this suffering? They were ready to tell him all that he had done wrong and how much of a sinner he was. So, they cared—to a point.
Their true feelings came as the conversation began, and they missed the mark and the opportunities to be a good friend.
THEOLOGY OVER FRIENDSHIP
It looks like after the seven days and nights went by, Job first shares his some of his grief, and his friends missed out on the opportunity to pray with him, right from the beginning. Prayer is an incredible tool, and they failed to utilize it.
Because his pain was so great, Job mentioned that it would have been better if he was never born (Job 3), and his friends didn’t think to encourage him and lift him up with their words.
Did it ever even crossed their minds to console their friend, and give him the comfort he so desperately needed?
Instead, they verbally tore him to pieces.
Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, was the first to speak after Job’s speech, and almost immediately, he claims this happened because Job sinned (Job 4).
Then Bildad shared that Job should repent (Job 8). He agreed with Eliphaz, but was harsher in his approach.
Zophar also said Job should repent (Job 11). But Zophar was brash, and exaggerated Job’s words.
All three focused on theology instead of compassion, which only added to Job’s misery (Job 16:2).
Job’s three friends assumed that he was suffering because he had sinned, and were convinced they were right. Clearly Job done something bad enough to receive this kind of treatment. But, that’s where they were wrong.
They, like Job, didn’t know that Job suffered by the hand of Satan (Job 1-2). The doctrine they knew and understood was that if you were righteous, God blesses you; and if you were a sinner, you suffered as a result of it.
They missed a bigger point: we live in a broken and fallen world.
Bad things happen—even to good, honest people like Job.
Job’s friends chose reason over love. They all felt the need to find a reason why Job suffered so much—they got so wrapped up in their ideas, that they failed to display love, and instead, judged and condemned their friend.
They failed to see how miserable their friend was.
LOVE OVER PRIDE
At one point, I was a bad friend. I remember in elementary school, I was good at cutting people out of my life for no apparent reason, because I didn’t want to be the one who lost friends.
I wanted to be in control.
I had befriended this girl, and she was kind and understanding towards me. But, I didn’t allow myself to get close to her, and I didn’t even try to understand her, where she came from, what her story was. I let pride get in the way—which eventually led to our falling out.
Looking back, I realize that I was a bad listener.
I was too self-absorbed in my feelings and my desire to have more than just one friend, since I was new at the school (which is no excuse).
So, over time, I started paying less attention to her, and gave no reason or excuse for my behavior. This hurt her, I could tell, but I didn’t know how to explain myself.
Instead, I chose the cowardly route and just became distant, hoping that she would get the hint.
Later on, I realized I didn’t know anything about her, what she liked, what she was going through, and had I listened, maybe I would have been able to encourage her, let her know that she wasn’t alone—just be a friend.
But, at the time, I didn’t see us being friends for a long time, so I avoided close conversations with her.
One day, she was telling me that her goldfish (or a different pet) died, and in my selfishness, I decided that wasn’t something worth talking about.
It’s just a fish, right?
Be that as it may, I now know that I missed my chance to be considerate of her situation, love her, and comfort her, even over something so small.
If I can’t handle the small things, how am I going to help with the bigger things?
Sometimes, I think, we want to be there for our friends for the big stuff, you know, the important things.
But, friendships start small—and that’s okay. I needed to learn to let the friendship grow and develop.
In the end, it was my selfishness that drove us apart.
I wonder if we’d still be friends if I had been more kind.
If I listened.
If I cared.
I missed the opportunity to show her love and grace, despite how small or insignificant I felt the situation was.
I feel that Job’s friends also were prideful in their accusations against him. They acted like their theology was more important than Job’s feelings—they didn’t realize their own sin, but were eager to find out what Job’s was (even though he was righteous [Job 1:1]).
The irony is that in the end, Job prayed for his friends (Job 42:8).
Which is exactly what Christ did for us (John 17:6-26).
Jesus is the perfect example of how a friend acts: He was loving, compassionate, gracious, forgiving, and patient.
Jesus doesn’t groan and wonder when we’ll ever understand. He doesn’t sulk in the corner, waiting for us to get our act together, He doesn’t judge or condemn us when we do make a mistake.
He reaches out His arms in love, and wants us to embrace His grace and mercy at the foot of the cross.
He is our Mediator. He cares.
He loves with an everlasting love.
This is the example I want to follow—compassionate, kind, loving, lends a listening ear, extends grace. But, all this is difficult without the Holy Spirit. How will you be a better friend to someone today?
Personally, I’m impressed with Job’s patience to deal with the comments his friends made against him. I would have walked away real fast.
Even though Job’s friends consistently told him he was a sinner and needed to repent, and accused him of not repenting, Job still stuck by them.
He was a better friend to them than they were to him.
This reminds me a lot of Christ (Isaiah 53).
The things Christ bore for our sake, just so that we could call Him our Friend.
Job lacked a mediator, because his friends did a poor job of lifting him up, praying for him, listening to his pain, helping him. Not once did they ask what Job was feeling and what they could do to help. Not once did they try to understand where he was coming from, instead of being argumentative and accusatory.
They never bothered to care. They didn’t care how hurtful their words were, or how their words affected him. They were just focused on their theology.
Yet, Job remained friends with them. He represented Christ long before He came.
This is something that I need to be more careful of: pushing my ideology and theology on other people, instead of extending grace. We’re all growing, slowly, in different directions, and at different levels. The story of Job teaches me to extend a listening ear, give a shoulder to cry on, care about people’s stories, pay attention, ask how to help.
Who am I to think that I’m better off than the next person? I know I’m not.
How can you begin to show more of God’s love, point others back to Him, in a way that shows you understand them? How can you extend the grace of God, as Christ lives in you, to those who may need it most?
If anything, I’ve learned this: people don’t want your ideas, they want your concern for them.
Becoming more like Christ is an ongoing thing. It’s not something that happens overnight and you automatically become the person that He’s created you to be. No, it’s a continual process—and that’s okay. Allow yourself to change and grow, and extend even more grace to others.
Yuliana is a blogger, proofreader, and sometimes photographer (when the occasion calls for it). She graduated with a creative writing degree in English and has a Russian minor. She strives to use her talents for God’s glory and prays that He touches others through the work of her hands. Yuliana loves meeting new people, supporting small and local businesses, and spending her time outdoors (when the Carolina heat isn’t ridiculous!). Jesus overwhelms her heart, and iced coffee runs in her veins. She currently lives Waxhaw, a city outside of the greater Charlotte area.