Tuesday, February 10, 2015

a study in Job: true friends in times of trouble? (part 5)

Everyone likes having friends, right? Everyone likes to enjoy the company of like-minded individuals and spend time with pleasant companions. Job was no exception to this. And to their credit, Job's friends did show up and sit beside him. But did their presence glorify God? Did their visit encourage Job to stand firm in his faith... well, no.

A week after Job's friends turned up is when Job began cursing his own birth and questioning his faith. In fact, up until that point, scripture accounts that Job chose not to sin against God - even when the worst of circumstances came about. However, once Job's three friends enter the picture, Job's whole attitude changes. Their very presence darkens his door and lowers his spirit. (What does that say about these three men?)

Entering the scene is Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (whom I like to call Eliph, Bill, and Zo). Three guys who clearly were NOT like-minded with the same perception as Job when it came to God. Through several chapters we see these three amigo's give bad counsel and wrong advise.

Eliph begins by arguing with Job in scriptural half-truths while adding in his own personal assumptions that Job must have done something wrong to bring such horrible crisis upon his life. Rather than remind Job of his eternal hope in God and encourage him to stand firm against the enemy, Eliph only accuses and criticizes Job, thus becoming an agent of discouragement and further affliction. This is a very dangerous and destructive approach as it promotes unnecessary sorrow to another without exhibiting compassion. Is that love? I think not. No, judgementally selecting parts of God's word while adding in our own human criticism can only produce the absolute wrong counsel at the inappropriately wrong moment. Thanks for nothing, Eliph.

To make matters worse, Bill chimes in and supports Eliph's argument. Unfortunately, he does so without fully considering God's providential care for His people. Furthermore, Bill fails to listen to Job's rebuttal against Eliph's original accusation. Job knew that he had done nothing wrong to cause such calamity in his life, but Bill is clearly blind to Job's proven integrity - the same integrity that God Himself had assessed as blameless. Bill's approach was equally as dangerous and destructive as Eliph's, but he brought the added annoyance of correcting Job with empty, long-winded counsel without really hearing all the facts in Job's favor. Bill altogether disregards Job's character and feelings and becomes the poster child of how not to listen and comfort a friend who is in the depths of pain. Thanks for nothing, Bill.

Finally we hear from Zo, who, up until this point, has been biting his tongue in frustration. Agreeing with both Eliph and Bill, Zo responds the angriest and most heated of all three friends. He is least sympathetic and most impatient with Job. His argument is all justice and no mercy. Job has got to get it together and fess up to his sin, so Zo does not even try and comfort Job with the concept of God's unconditional love and trustworthiness. No, like Job's other friends, Zo is resolved to bluntly condemn Job into a corner until he repents of whatever he must be guilty of. Thanks for nothing, Zo.

This dialogue... this ungodly counsel, continues back and forth between Job and his "friends" for many chapters. Tag team attacks and accusations against this poor beaten down man continue without regard to his character or feelings... worse, without regard to God's proven love for his people in times of trouble. In the end, Job's friends end up tearing him down farther into despair. Thanks for nothing, guys.

I would hate to hear how these "Christians" spoke about Job behind his back, considering how abusively they treated him in person. Seems to me that Job needed new friends!

I don't know about you, but I can relate to Job's need for good, supportive Christian friends. Personally, I have very, VERY few friends... lot's of acquaintances, mind you, but very few friends. My true friends, however, are usually quick to listen and slow to speak. They are humble enough to simply sit with me without knowing all the answers and study God's word while we wait on the Lord to renew my strength. Yes, my true friends are deliberate to live positively and fill every room they enter with the hope of Jesus in their lives. These are friends who are secure in their faith... even enough to call me out on sin when it is apparent and unconfessed, and balanced enough to remain loving, merciful, and supportive as I work through my own selfish strongholds.

Ladies, a true friend loves at all times. A true friend builds up rather than tears down. A true friend can actually become closer than a brother or sister. A true friend is patient and kind. A true friend never envies, or boasts, or gossips, or dishonors. A true friend is never self-seeking or prideful or abusive. A true friend keeps no record of wrongs. They do their best to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere on your behalf. A true friend strengthens the focus on God's sovereignty, God's wisdom, and God's love. This is the type of friend I desire to be near, and this is the type of friend I always wish to be.

How about you? Are you this kind of friend? Do your current friends do there best to model the qualities of Christ? If not, perhaps, like Job, it's time to pray for some new relationships!

We can learn a lot by studying the poor example and the poor advise of Job's friends. I'm sure Job learned a lot too. After being exposed to the counsel of their ungodly ways, I'm sure he had reached the end of his rope. But the good news is that Job's most faithful friend would soon enter the scene and set the record straight. GOD was about to speak! Hallelujah and hurray! God's holy perception was about to be revealed to these abusive, misguided men. God's faithfulness would soon be known to poor, ol' defeated Job! I hope you'll tune in tomorrow to hear what the King of kings has to say! (Thanks for EVERYTHING, Jesus!!!)

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.
(By Joseph M. Scriven, 1855)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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