Suffering is part of our lives and many people try and explain it away. Ravi Zacharias says that there are three truths that we believe but that we cannot fully understand how they all work together. If we change any of these three truths in our attempt to understand or defend God we usually say something about God that is not true.
Three Truths we believe:
God is all powerful: He can do anything He wills.
God is all-loving: He cares with an intense value for His Creation
Evil is a reality: Suffering is an all-pervading part of this world.
It is with these three truths in mind that we continue our walk through the book of Job. We all have times in our lives that we need a friend. Unfortunately, pain and suffering tend to show who are true friends are rather than have the love and support we need from them. Nothing will show a true friend like a conflict so we will see what a friend looks like and how we can be the person that we need to be when one of our friends is suffering.
Read Job 2:11-13
1) Friends show compassion
Jobs body was so damaged that his friends did not recognize him as they approached. They began tearing their robes and covering their heads with dust while they sat in silence. What they were demonstrating was an ancient funeral process because of the devastation that Job had already suffered but also they may have believed Job, himself, was about to die.
Job’s world was not the same anymore and his friends could see that his life had changed forever. It was difficult for them to see how a man who was so blessed with a great family and an abundance of material possessions could have it all gone in such a short amount of time.
Job’s friends started off doing the right thing by just mourning with him by sitting in silence with him. We have a tendency to be fixers and when there is nothing we can do to fix someone’s situation we say many things that we should not say. Jobs friends wept with him and for him and that was the best thing they could do.
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Christianity is always about entering in someone’s world and experiencing it with them. That is exactly what Christ did for us as He stepped out of Heaven and came into our world to save us.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Christ understands what we are going through because He entered our world and was tempted and experienced pain, sorrow and the effects of sin that have come upon this world. God is called a God of Compassion (Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:17; Joel2:13; Jonah 4:2; James 5:11) and so we can take comfort in knowing that God cares for what we are going through in this world.
Compassion simply means you have sorrow for what someone is going through. Because God is a God of compassion we, as His followers, are to have compassion for what others are going through even when those things do not directly affect us.
They sat with him
To enter into someone’s world means setting your world aside for a time. Job’s friends came to visit him and left their homes to do so. We do not know how far they came but they did have to set aside their plans and the comfort of their lives to go and be with their friend. Being present is comforting to the one who is grieving and no words are needed. We tend to want to talk too much and by doing so we are not alleviating their suffering but actually we add to it. No amount of words are going to make the pain go away when someone experiences extreme tragedies like Job experienced. Never think that you just being there is not enough because by sitting with your friend you will be offering comfort and healing.
2) Friends listen to our pain
Job finally starts talking and he basically says that he wishes he would have never been born. Job chapter 3 is one of the most depressing chapters in the Bible as Job has lost all hope for living. Listening to a person who is grieving can be painful as they try and sort out all that happened in their life. People who have suffered a great loss reflect on why this had to happen, what if’ things could have been different, and the what their life could have been if the tragedy did not take place.
People do not need answers because many times there are none. People need to just be able to share their thoughts knowing they will not be judged as they sort out the crazy thoughts and bad theology they have in the midst of their pain.
When you are in pain you tend to fix your attention to where the pain is. If your thumb hurts then your entire day is focused on your thumb which takes away your attention from the other parts of your body that are functioning pain free. Job in the midst of his pain has forgotten the days that were good because his pain is so great. Job’s focus is on everything that has gone wrong. Any of us in his shoes would be focusing on the same negative thoughts that he is now having. When we sit and listen to people we have to know that their entire life has been turned down and that their focus will be on the tragedy and not on what they still have in this life.
Read Job 3:20-26
Job goes on to say that he wished he would have died before all the pain had come about in his life. Job wished he would have passed from this earth while things were going very well. Like an athlete who says they want to go out on top after winning a championship, Job wished he could have passed from this life while the times were good.
A parent’s worse nightmare is to lose a child and Job had lost all ten of his on the same day. Job did not get to say a final goodbye or to let them know how much he loved them one more time. Job knew his life had taken a wrong turn somehow but he was not sure how or even why all these bad things happened at once. We have to always remember that Job did not have the peek behind the scenes like we had when the book of Job began.To suffer for one’s sins makes sense but Job realized that the suffering he was going through was meaningless.
We live in a culture that is trying to live pain free and some of our friendships have suffered because people do not like the fact that others suffer. Some people remove themselves from their suffering friend because they do not want to experience the pain their friend is going through. Dr. Jerry Bridges, the author of many books, said that when his first wife died the thing he found odd was that he did not know where all his friends went. In the midst of his greatest pain and struggle he felt abandoned by the very people he thought would be there for him.
Never underestimate you being there and just listening to your friend who is in pain. It will be more comfort than you could ever imagine.
Read Job 4:7-8
3) Friends offer advice
There is good advice and bad advice and Jobs friends are an illustration of bad advice. One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is when we think we can put life into a nice neat box so that we can understand everything. There are many things in life we will never be able to figure out or understand and so we have to be careful to think that we can make sense of it all.
Those who sow trouble reap it
The problem with Jobs friends is that they mix some truth with their false theology of how God works. The majority of the book of Job is his friends trying to convince him that he or his kids did something to deserve this punishment brought onto him. The Bible does say that those who sow trouble will reap it (Proverbs 22:8) but many people have suffered who did not do anything to cause they pain they experienced. In fact the first murder recorded in the Bible was Cain killing Abel because he was jealous of Abel’s relationship with God.
Jobs friends accuse Job of sinning as the reason that he has lost everything in his life. God at the start of the book of Job called Job blameless and upright. That did not mean he was perfect but that meant if God was going to give out punishment for sins then there would have been many more people God would have dealt with before He dealt with Job.
God allows things in our lives and in this world for reasons that go beyond our understanding or our comprehension. One of the prevailing thoughts in Job’s time was also the prevailing thought when Jesus walked the earth and that was if there was sickness or disease it was because God was punishing someone.
John 9:1-3 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
The man that Jesus refers to was healed of his blindness which demonstrated to others that Jesus truly was God in the flesh, the long awaited Messiah they were waiting for. God will allow things in our lives not to punish us but to allow the works of God to be displayed in our lives so that others can know that Jesus is the way to Heaven. (John 14:6)
When we offer advice to our friends the best thing we can do is share encouragement, hope and strength that comes through God’s word. You can never go wrong with your advice that is straight from the Bible.
Read Job 4:12-17
Although you think that Satan’s attack on Job would have stopped we see that Satan is now using Job’s friends to bring more pain through discouragement of false doctrine. Most people see the loss of his wealth and his children as attacks by Satan but they forget that Jobs wife wanted him to curse God and now Satan is using Jobs friends to discourage him more. We must never forget that we are in a spiritual battle at all times that will not end until the end of time. As friends we have to make sure that we are used of God to bring comfort and not used as instruments of Satan to bring more discouragement.
If y0u read Job 4:12-17 you will see that Jobs friend was influenced by a demonic spirit and not a spirit or angel of God. Angels in the Bible always appear in a form as a man (Genesis 18-19) and Angels always say do not be afraid (Genesis 21:17; 2 Kings 1:15; Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:30, 2:10; Mark 16:6). The spirit Job friend is quoting does not have any of those qualities. The Spirit Jobs friend quotes al questions whether man can be right with God and also complains about God’s judgement of the angels. Satan hates the fact that God loves us and has provided a way for us to be back in a right relationship with Him. Satan hates the fact that God’s judgment of Angels was a one time judgment.
Satan will continue his assault on us until we pass from this earth or till the end of time. What is important for us to do is to make sure we are speaking as a spokesperson for God and not for Satan so that we do not cause more hurt and pain to the very people we love and are trying to help.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Before you speak, especially when addressing someone’s pain, make sure it is from God. If you are not sure what to say then say nothing at all or just quote scripture.
Read Job 5:1-7
Jobs friend calls him a fool and then tells him his Children and wealth were destroyed because of sin in his life. The assault on Job continues because Job’s friends have a false theology in their life. Many of us have been taught things by our parents, pastors and other leaders that are not biblically sound. Fortunately God gave us the book of Job to correct the error that bad things are happening to us because of sin in our lives. Suffering is not always because of sin, even though that could be one of the causes, sometimes it is because we live in a world full of sin. The Bible even warns us that those who try to live for God will suffer pain not because of sin but because of righteous living.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,…
God allows suffering but that does not mean we will understand all the reasons why these things are permitted in our life.We are finite creatures and there is no way we can understand God, and His reasoning, for allowing things into our lives that seem to be so painful.
Romans 11:33-34 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
Some say that “Knowledge is power’ but I believe that knowledge means control. We do not like not being in control of our own circumstances. We like to be gods of our own lives. That is why we like the thought that if I live a good life I am blessed and if I live a bad life I am cursed. It is a control issue and we want to make sure that we are the dictators of our own lives.
We know that God loves us and He has reasons that go beyond our understanding for all the things that take place on this earth. We may never fully understand the ways of God this side of Heaven and we have to be careful that we do not try and have a doctrine that controls God in any way shape or form. We need to be careful of the advice we give people because we may be adding discouragement to people because of the false things we believe.
Atheist claim that if there is a God then He is a poor God for allowing evil into the world. If God is not good for allowing evil to exist then we as parents are not good for having children which will come into the world where pain and suffering already exist. Why have children if you already know that they will suffer from heartache, pain and even death? But as parents we know that the joy of having children is worth the risk of the pain we might experience. Even those who have lost children would not want their child to not have been born. The reason they grieve so deeply is because they loved so deeply. To truly love you have to also have the potential to fully grieve the loss of that love.
If there was no suffering we would also have no heroes because there would be nothing to risk. If there was no suffering we would not know courage or laying ones life down for a friend. (John 15:13) Suffering, as painful as it can be, is also the very thing that makes love all that it is.
We may never fully understand suffering this side of Heaven but we can be the friend to someone they need us to be as they walk through pain. Our job as friends is not to understand the why but we are to show compassion and listen and only speak when we know for sure it is from God.
Not one time in the book of Job do his friends offer any care only a discussion on why they think he is suffering. They do not offer him and his wife any meals. They do not offer Job ointments for his sores and they do a poor job offering any emotional relief as well.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
True friends are shown when everything goes wrong. Who sticks with you is not just your friend they become your family.
Jon Acuff “You say crisis I say friend filter. Nothing sorts relationship like a bump in the road. Celebrate who stayed forgive who didn’t”
The pains in life will cause us to find out who are real friends are and that is not always a bad thing.