Did you know that Job's "test" only lasted a few months?
Yet Job has come to represent the worst of human suffering. He lost everything; his children, his possessions, and finally his health! His poor wife lost all hope when she saw her provider and protector so sick that he was ostracized from society and forced to live out at the city dump! In her day a woman alone was a woman condemned, and it appeared that Job was doomed!
Remember, they couldn't see beyond their immediate circumstances. They didn’t have the book! All they knew was that one day everything was right with their world; he was the richest man in that hemisphere, a man of integrity and influence, and the NEXT day everything began to fall apart!
It happened that fast! It often does! One day everything is "as it should be", and the next day a whirlwind of calamities arrives to under-mine and over-turn it all!
How did Job manage to hold fast to his faith through it all!?
First let me point out that he didn't do it perfectly. While he did better than most, Job did lose heart when the physical afflictions hit him! He began in chapter 3 to curse the day of his birth, and he doesn't stop whining for the next 28 chapters! I can relate to that, unfortunately. I am an expert whiner when I get confused about my circumstances, and Job was certainly confused! Why was this happening to him!?
His friends thought they had ALL the answers! But let's not slam them completely.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were obviously very devoted friends. They set their lives aside to be at Job's side, and for the first 7 days and nights they did great. The fact is that they give us a super example of devoted support in that first week - the just sat with their friend in silence.
After all, what could they say? "Hang in there Job, it will work out."
He had already lost 7 sons and 3 daughters, not to mention a life-time of hard work and all of his possessions! No, the best thing to say when you don't know WHAT to say, is nothing.
Silence is so foreign to us today in our era of cell phones, computers, radios and so forth. When is the last time you just sat silently with someone who is sad or grieving?
Sitting in silence communicates VOLUMES! It says, "I can't say or do anything that will change your situation, but I will go with you through the struggle."
The writer to the Hebrews admonishes us in verses 24-25 of chapter 10: "…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting (encouraging) one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching."
Job's friends really began to blow it when they began to "encourage Job" verbally, but in all fairness, I believe that one reason Job was able to endure, accept and learn from his struggles (see chapter 42), was that he had friends who rallied to his side and never abandoned him, even when their perspectives on the problems were in conflict.
By the way, if YOU are in the middle of some over-whelming struggle, remember what Job learned: God's plans are perfect, and always end in blessing. Job's first 10 kids were awaiting him in heaven, only lost to him briefly, and his humility and perseverance was rewarded with a double portion when all was said and done. And remember to reach out for good friends. Even the ones who tend to say dumb things.
Have a blessed day today.
- Pastor Robert Fountain