Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The patience of Job's friends

You may be wondering why I chose this post title. The King James version of James 5:11 commends Job's patience, not his friends'. But that's the point. Job's friends weren't very patient, were they? To their credit, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar started out well. When they heard of their friend's tragic loss, they joined him in his grief and sat silently in the dust for a week. (Job 2:11-13) But when the week was over, they opened their mouths and inserted their feet. I don't think they wanted to add to Job's wounds with their words. I'm sure they wanted to help him out of his distress by offering the best advice they could, but they made things worse.

Now it's easy to criticize Job's friends, but I don't know if I would have done any better. It's a very normal reaction to want to fix the problem as soon as possible when you see a friend suffering. If the problem can't be solved, then the next best thing is to try to lift any despair through encouragement. Better still, if you've just come through a trial yourself, then you can share the lessons you learned and all the good that came of it. But comforting someone through a trial isn't always that simple.

God does work all things together for good, but the "all things" are tailor-made and as individual as we are. Suffering "well" is not one-size-fits-all, and I shouldn't expect that to be the case. Also I would never question a person's faith like a prosperity preacher if the trial is prolonged, but do I get impatient when it's taking longer than I would like for someone to "get over it?" But who sets the timetable? God does, and that includes the end of the trial and a person's response. There may be wounds that are never healed in this life and sorrows that follow us to the grave. Am I willing to be there for the long haul? Because there isn't an expiration date for bearing one another's burdens.

Perhaps the most freeing thing is realizing that as an onlooker, I need the help of the Holy Spirit just as much as the person in the trial. All I can do is step out in faith and oft-times imperfectly love a friend. Sometimes it may be right to offer verbal encouragement. Other times there are no words, but it's okay to admit that. A simple, "I don't know what to say. I wish I could change the situation for you, but I can't. But I love you and I'm praying." may be what is needed at that moment. I won't always get it right either, but there is no shame in "Please forgive me if I hurt you. I want to help." A formula would make things so much easier, but it is far better to learn dependence on the Lord as He works the fruits of patience and love in my life.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Col. 3:12-15.


  1. I can so relate to this Persis. I know I have hurt people while trying to encourage them and people have hurt me in the same way as well. This verse in Colossians covers it all though.

  2. Excellent post! We have all been on both sides and can relate. Thanks for the reminders