My Sunday School class is studying Job. I don't leave class with warm, fuzzy thoughts about a god who just wants me to be happy and is willing to do anything to make that happen. (As my pastor said in last week's sermon, "Nowhere, nowhere, NOWHERE does it say in the Bible that God's plan for your life is to make you comfortable.") Studying Job has made me think deeply about God's purposes and His sovereignty. It's also sparked some good conversation with my husband.
One such discussion centered on Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Were they terrible friends? We agreed they were not. Certainly they were misguided. They were no great comfort to Job. But there was no malice aforethought. In fact, Scriptures tells us that they came to Job to "show him sympathy and comfort him." (Job 2:11) They wept for him, grieved with him. And they did perhaps the best thing anyone can do in times of trial - they sat with him for seven days without saying a word (see Job 2:12-13). The problems came when they did speak. These men were not Jews. Surely their knowledge of God was limited, at best. They sincerely wanted to help Job, but were ill-equipped to do so.
How many times have I been an Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar in someone's life? I've had good intentions. I've sincerely wanted to help. Yet my knowledge of God has been limited. I've given platitudes that I've read or heard. Modern church vernacular is full of them.
When God closes a door, He opens a window.
God needed another angel in Heaven.
God won't give you more than you can bear.
Nice as these thoughts may be, they are counter-Scriptural. When we share them, we are perpetuating misunderstandings of God's character and purposes for our lives. We are not encouraging others to seek the true God of the Bible. Is it because we don't know Him ourselves?
The remedy is simple: stay in the Word. Only when we know God as He reveals Himself through the pages of Scripture will we be able to truly encourage our friends and to give them wise advice. In those times when the Spirit doesn't give us words, we should follow the example of Job's friends by just being there and being silent.
True, it's not as easy as spouting off some greeting card sentiment that makes our friends - and us - feel good, but it's the mark of a godly friend. And that's the kind of friend I want to be.