A Little Redemption for the Friends of Job by Rachel Dreesen

Ah, Job's friends. Doomed to go down in history as the poster children for "what not to say to your grieving friend". We can read in the book of Job that [the man named] Job was a good, righteous man. Despite this, he had some terrible things happen to him: His children all died, many servants died, many of his animals were stolen or they died, he lost most of his wealth, and he was afflicted with sores… Job was "In the depths of despair" as Anne of Green Gables would say. Job's friends come onto the scene, and they get a (well deserved) bad rap because, among other things, they accuse Job of causing his own troubles. The friends said Job must be living in terrible sin to inflict God to punish him so, but we can read in the beginning chapters of this book that this isn't the case at all. Neither Job, nor his friends, had that perspective of knowing why Job was suffering.

Despite all their faults, I'd like to take some time to focus on the friend's shining moment. Job 2:11-13 describes a beautiful display of friendship, as the friends heard of Job's trouble. They made an appointment to go together to sympathize and comfort him (Job 2:11), but Job was in such distress, the band of friends didn't even recognize him. With that sight, they wept. Three grown men in the middle of the road (presumably, because they were still a distance away the text says) weeping with each other on behalf of their friend’s agony. Then they went to their friend and "sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great" (Job 2:13).

Silence. For 7 days and nights. Simple presence. For 7 days and nights. All while sitting on the ground covered in dirt, and wearing ripped clothing. It was only when they started speaking to Job, offering their own opinions (instead of gentle counsel), that the trouble started.

Job broke the 7 day silence with a lamentation, cursing the day he was born (the Bible is clear Job was not in sin to do so). Instead of continuing in silence, the friends started their commentary. They probably just wanted to "help" by saying what they thought were helpful things, but what can be said when there are no words? When they tried to fill Job’s emptiness with their words and opinions, they lost the trust and openness gained by simply being a presence.

If each of us looked at the calendar for the next week, how easy would it be to drop everything for the sake of being physically present day and night, in the dirt with a friend in need? What are the chances the friend would even accept such a gesture? Our culture pushes so hard to “be ok” at all costs as soon as possible, no matter the tragedy. As Christians, we need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) in their various seasons of need. Let us be those who build a culture of presence in all seasons. Let us be the kind of friends who will sit in the dirt. Let us love well. Finally, let us be a little more like Job, allowing others to sit with us in the dirt; not fearing to lament to the God who hears us.