Friendship is so complicated.
All in the course of one situation, a friend can build you up and then also completely let you down. A friend can be everything that you need in one moment, then in the next cut you deeper than you realized you could be cut.
This was Job’s experience…complicated friendship. I feel this in my soul.
Job’s friends catch a lot of flack. And honestly, rightly so. Job was going through the worst experiences a person could go through- the enemy was literally attacking him in hopes of pressuring him into renouncing the Lord. Job’s pain was catastrophic, and these friends responded in a way that was not super loving. They accused, trying to find fault with Job. They believed he must have deserved these awful things that happened to him. He must have had it coming. Ouch.
They got one thing right, though. They showed up.
This is so precious to me.
Have you ever been there, friend?
The world has raged against you, and you are left ragged and alone. Your body is broken. Your heart is broken. Your spirit is broken. You are hanging on by a thread, questioning if God even still sees you.
You feel so alone.
That is where Job was. In Job 10:18-22, he cries out, ” Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave! Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.”
He was depressed. He had lost everything. Then his three friends showed up.
They got a lot of things wrong, but this is something that they got very right. How easy is it for us to keep our distance, not knowing how to handle our friend’s crisis? It would have been a lot easier for them not to come to Job at all, but they SHOWED UP. They sat with him, and they mourned with him for a week.
Can we just thank the Lord for a moment for friends who show up?
I remember when my daughter, June, died. We were living about an hour away from my hometown, and all of my friends were an hour away. One minute I was a glowing, morning sickness-riddled pregnant woman eagerly anticipating the birth of baby number four. Then, in a whirlwind, the words “I can’t find a heartbeat” changed my life forever.
I was lost. My whole world turned upside down.
Pregnancy loss is hard and complicated. People often don’t know what to say. Often, they say the wrong thing. It would have been easier for people to just leave me be, to let me mourn alone and to pretend that June never happened. That is actually what many women who experience the loss of a child in the womb encounter. They grieve alone and in silence.
I’m so thankful that my tribe did not allow that. Like Job, I had friends that showed up. “We love you. We’re here for you. I’m so sorry. We’re praying for you. I can’t stop crying. My heart is hurting for you.” My phone was so full of those messages I couldn’t even respond to all of them. My eyes are welling up with tears of gratitude as I write these words, thinking of how powerful it was in those moments of deep grief and deep brokenness to know that I was not alone. We had meal trains and baby sitting offers, cards and flowers and sweet thoughtful gifts. I still carry the key chain I was gifted that says, “To think that the first thing she saw when she opened her little eyes was Jesus.”
Showing up is the most important thing that you can do for your friends.
When the storms of life rip the air out of your lungs, friends who show up are like oxygen.
And Job’s friends sat with him, in mourning, for 7 days.
Those were good, committed friends.
But, Friendship is complicated.
When Job finally spoke, giving voice to his torment, his friends didn’t respond with empathy. They accused. Ouch.
What a betrayal.
Have you ever been there? Someone that you really trusted- you really thought you could count on- completely failed you. Your forever friend- the one who showed up, and sat with you in mourning for a week, attacked your character. She wondered aloud what you did, implying that you deserved the abuse. She questioned your integrity, your commitment, your work ethic. She dropped hints. Maybe if you had worked harder, loved better, or done more none of this would have ever happened to you.
Job didn’t need accusations. In fact, the accusations were baseless. God himself declared Job righteous. (Job 1:8) Yet still, his friends persisted, insisting that there must be some reason-some sin- that led to Job’s devastation.
Job felt so betrayed. He must have felt so alone. He said, “He has put my family far from me, and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me. My relatives and my close friends have failed me; the guests in my house have forgotten me…”
These friends who came to comfort him, who came to sit with him in his mourning then caused more pain and turmoil. As I read some of the things that they said to him, I was horrified. Job lost everything, but I think the most devastating of all was the death of his children. His friends got caught up in their own spirituality, philosophizing, and intellectualizing of holiness, Heaven and Hell. They were so busy pondering the intricacies of God’s righteousness and wrath that they completely lost sight of the fact that their friend, Job, was hurting.
He lost his children, and his friends were saying things like, ” His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. (Job 5:4)
Guys, his children were CRUSHED. All of them. (Job 1:18) And his friends were making comments about how if a man is not righteous, then it stands to reason that his children will be crushed.
How incredibly insensitive. How hurtful! How cruel. But these were Job’s friends. His FRIENDS. Good friends. They came to him when he was in deep distress. They sat with him in silent mourning for 7 days. Then, they intellectualized and minimized his pain, saying things like this.
Friendship is so complicated.
They claimed to have insight, even a word from the Lord while continuing to dig their heels in, and this back and forth went on for more than 25 chapters. Job, trying to defend his righteousness, also tried to hear his friends and express his hurt and frustration. His friends were unrelenting.
There are two critical lessons in this for us.
When our friends are hurting, they needs our presence more than our insights. It’s most important that you show up. A crisis calls for compassion, not theories and theology. There is a time and a place for thorough analysis and investigation, but that is not when your friend is in a deeply broken place. We can be better.
When we are hurting, it’s also important that we remember that friendship is complicated. People will fail us, but God never will. When your friends let you down, remember that they are fallible humans. They cannot be expected to fully understand your circumstance, your situation or your experience. Even good friends fail. They still love you. Job’s friends loved him. They invested in him. They showed up, sat with him, mourned with him and stayed while he wallowed in his depression. Yours love you too, even when it does not feel like it.
And never forget that the God who stays will never leave you, never forsake you and sees the fullness of your circumstances in a way that even your friends cannot. He treasures you beyond measure.
As Job navigated his depression, his loss and his confusion, God stayed. He listened, and He did respond to Job. (Job 38-41) Ultimately, God blessed the last half of Job’s life even more than the first. God saw him, even when his closest friends did not.
God sees you too. Even when you are hurting, even when you are questioning and lashing out at Him, and even when nobody around you seems to understand what you are going through…God does.
You may feel alone, but you truly never are.
Lord, thank you for never leaving me. When I was lost, confused and alone, you never left my side. When I feel misunderstood and misrepresented by the world around me, you see me for who I am. When my heart is broken, you provide me with friendships that give me comfort, peace and healing. Thank you for all that you do, all that you are and for the grace, forgiveness and redemption that I do not deserve. Amen.