In Job 22:5, Eliphaz, one of Job’s “friends” says to him “Is not your evil abundant? There is no end to your iniquities.” Hmmm, probably not the best example for us to follow when visiting a friend who is suffering!
Can we learn something from Job’s friends about how to help the hurting?
Absolutely. Those first seven days were their golden hour. If they had stopped there they would have been heroes, I think, because they would have shown compassion and patience. And that’s what we should learn.
When you walk into a horrific calamity you should be really slow to speak and quick to listen. You should be quick to cry, quick to hold, and quick to meet needs, bring meals, and wait upon the Lord. The theological wrestling comes later, probably. It’s different with different people.
But I think the lesson we learn from the progress of the book of Job is that while those three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—were sitting in dust and ashes, aching with their friend Job, he was helped by them. And many people are helped just by the loving presence of another.
I don’t think this nullifies the importance of truth. Let me give you an example.
I’m a colleague here with Tom Steller, who has been with me for 24 years. And Tom and I have sometimes said to each other, “It would be great to stay together long enough to die together, Tom.” And depending upon which one of us comes to visit the other in the hospital at our dying moment, we know, because of 24 or (perhaps by then) 54 years together, we don’t have to say a word. It’s all been said. We have a common theology. Neither of us will have to preach to the other in order to fix their ideas. We will all know that God reigns, God is good, God is loving, and God is wise. We’re perplexed, but you don’t need to preach. Let’s just take each other’s hands and pray and fight this fight of faith together.