Part 8 – Good Intentions – What Job’s Three Friends Got Right
We are finally introduced to Job’s infamous three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. I called them ‘infamous’ because throughout history people have focused on their negative, self-righteous, and sometimes arrogant comments to Job about his suffering. But the truth is, with this introduction of them we discover that they actually came with good intentions – good intentions that eventually turned sour.
Here’s what the friends got right:
1. They were indeed special friends. They were in a covenant relationship with each other, which means that they would go to whatever length necessary to help a brother in need, as we all ought to do regarding sincere friends.
2. The three of them desired to see Job in order to sympathize with and comfort their friend. In this context, the Hebrew word for sympathize emphasizes sharing with Job the grief he was experiencing. Comfort speaks of an attempt to ease the pain of the one suffering, in this case, by simply being there with him.
When we are dealing with someone who is hurting, especially through grief, the best thing we can do is to just be there. Our presence will comfort them more than our words. Giving them a sincere hug will help them sense that you are carrying along with them their pain in order to relieve them of some of the ache.
3. They were understanding of Job’s pain because they wept bitterly at how hurt he truly was.
4. They tore their robes and threw dust into the air so that it fell upon their heads. Both of these acts were ancient Jewish rituals that told the grieving person that they too were feeling/sensing/aware of the excruciating emotionally, physical and spiritual pain their friend was experiencing.
5. They sat with Job for seven days without uttering a word. Seven days was the typical time of official mourning for a Jewish person, and their silence was reflective of not only their sorrow, but their awareness that nothing they could say would eliminate Job’s grief.
There is a valuable lesson here for all of us. When visiting with one who is grieving we don’t have to say anything because we cannot give them what they desire the most – their loved one back. So we don’t have to say anything other than, “I am sorry for your pain. I’m sorry for your loss”.
Unfortunately, it’s when we open our mouths with so called advice, words of wisdom, and share our particular views as to the how’s and why’s that we get ourselves in trouble. And then we need to do for them; not wait for them to ask (because they won’t), but simply go do it (laundry, shopping, cleaning, etc.).
We have all had our ‘good intentions’ at times go awry, and that shouldn’t discourage us from our good intentions, but maybe we all ought to think things through, pray about it, and ask the Lord how we can ‘do good’ without causing more harm!