When you are suffering or enduring hardship, where do you turn? Do you have friends that you immediately pick up your phone and call? Where do you look for encouragement? Do you have friends, neighbors or a small group that show up when you are suffering?
We all have heard the story of Job and all he suffered and endured. Job had 3 friends that showed up for him in his time of need.
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
Job 2:11 (NLT)
At first, I can imagine Job being so relieved that these men, his friends, showed up for him. He surely assumed they were there to support and encourage him. But, it wasn’t long before he realized that they did not bring him any comfort, they only criticized and accused him.
These three men were jealous of Job because he was a godly man, a rich man and everything was going well for him and his family. The three knew about God, but they didn’t know God personally. They could not truly understand why Job suffered as he did. In Job chapters 4-7 we read the dialogue between Job and his three friends. The friends point out various reasons of why Job is suffering. Each time Job responds with a speech of his own.
The first to speak was Eliphaz who was the oldest and considered the wisest of the three friends. He starts out by complimenting Job, but soon begins to accuse Job of being impatient. Then Eliphaz told Job that according to what he himself had experienced and seen in his own life, those who do wrong suffer (even though he had never experienced or saw the same suffering Job was experiencing).
Don’t we sometimes do this in our own life? When a friend is suffering, we try and relate an experience we have similarly had? We try to explain why this might be happening to them based on our experiences. Eliphaz thought he had wisdom because of his personal experiences. But, our personal experience does not give us sound wisdom. Sound wisdom only comes from the Bible. Bible doctrine gives us a divine viewpoint, personal experience gives us a human viewpoint.
The next to speak is Bildad. He was pretty harsh with Job. He accused job of being a windbag and not having anything worthwhile to say. He told Job to look at past generations to see what happened in their lives. Bildad took the stand that if Job was upright or had not sinned, God would not be punishing him. He wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.
Then Zophar talked to Job. He was the most critical. He told Job he should be grateful that he wasn’t getting what he deserved. He used sayings of that day to get his point across. They didn’t even relate to Job’s sufferings. Zophar did not use correct Bible doctrine for the situation. He too thought Job sinned and was being disciplined. He also wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.
Now, on top of all Job’s sufferings, he was getting tested from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He had great patience and unconditional love for his friends, but he knew their advice was not good advice based on God’s word. They were doing just what the enemy wanted, giving advice that had no value and not based on Bible doctrine, they were using their own standards instead of God’s standards. Satan wanted Job to keep debating with his friends so he would get off track and begin to agree with their false standards.
The three friends agreed that god’s ways are far above their ways. However, their words to Job did not go along with the doctrine of the Bible. They judged Job because they were fearful. They knew Job was righteous and they also thought they were righteous. (Much like we see in the Pharisees later in the Bible.) They saw the suffering Job had and they were worried that maybe they would also suffer. They saw that the righteous do suffer and they didn’t want to believe that. They wanted Job to repent so his suffering would disappear. They were fearful that they also might have to suffer at some point in their lives.
You, too, have given no help. You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.
Satan’s favorite way to control us is through fear. Fear is an emotion and moves us away from the promises of Christ. Satan loved that the three friends were in fear. He hoped their fear would rub off on Job and Job would eventually turn away from God and lose hope. But, this does not happen. Even though he suffered, he was able to have courage and not fear. He was able to concentrate under pressure from the friends.
The main difference between Job and his friends is not that Job suffers and they do not. And it is not that Job understand suffering in a way that they do not. The main difference is that Job fears God and they do not.
Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?
Job 4:6 (NLT)
The main message of Job is not so much about how to deal with suffering as about learning how to fear God, even through suffering. Because we all will suffer.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 (NLT)
This example of suffering and friends coming to the rescue is such a great example for us today. We all suffer and have friends who may rally around us. We need to take every word they say and apply Bible doctrine to their words. Are they pointing us to Christ or causing us to doubt and turn from him? The devil would like nothing more than for us to turn from Christ in times of hardship.
We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.
James 5:11 (NLT)