“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13).
It may seem odd that I chose Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to illustrate good friendship, but hear me out. Although they did not give him sound advice, they were there for him. As you probably already know, the unfortunate Job had lost all his livestock, his servants, his children, and his wealth. To make matters worse, he was inflicted with sores that covered his entire body. Those sores were so agonizingly itchy and painful that he would resort to taking a piece of pottery to scrape himself. At some point, and we are not told when that was, his friends heard about it and decided to make the trip to visit him. We are also not told how long that trip too, but since it was not in a plane, train, or vehicle, we can assume it took weeks. It was probably slow and on the back of a camel – in the searing heat.
Job was a wealthy man who was well known in the east, “He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). It is safe to assume he had many friends, or should I say, acquaintances. You see, only three of all the people he knew took the time to come and comfort him in his hour of need. Were they perfect? Absolutely not, but they still put their lives on hold to make the trip to his home. Good friendship is not always having the best advice or the most suitable answer to a problem, but it does mean that no matter the discomfort, it will support a friend in need. Acquaintances see your pain and move on; friends, feel your pain, and stop.
Presently, people collect “friends” like trading cards or something similar. They boast of the thousands of social media friends they have, wearing it like a cheap badge of honor. But if something even remotely as tragic as what happened to Job faced them, they would soon find out who their real friends are. Many years ago, I spent the night in a small town about 400 miles from my hometown. I was driving an 18-wheeler that was giving trouble, and it would take some time before I could be on my way again. I called home from a payphone to let everyone know it was going to take a while when I noticed a car pull into the gas station I was at. The vehicle did not sound well, and the driver who exited the car was obviously distressed.
He wanted to use the payphone, so I hung up and let him use it before returning my call. However, I could not help overhearing him because I was close by, waiting to use the payphone again. Almost in tears, he called his friend and told him that circumstances had changed. He would no longer be able to visit him. A couple of hours later, a car pulled in, and a young man jumped out. It was the friend of the guy who was having car trouble. He had traveled 400 miles to pick him up and would bring him back again, help him fix his car, and then return home. In total, this man would travel 1600 miles in a week for his friend. That, my friends, is the epitome of good friendship.
Job’s friends did something similar. And when they got to his house, they joined him in his grief and DID NOT SPEAK FOR A WEEK. They did what we all should sometimes do – remain quiet. In fact, they did not say a word until he spoke, and that is sound advice. Sometimes silence is the best answer for a given situation. And while we are on about what not to say, here are some things you should refrain from uttering. “It will get better soon,” “Time heals everything,” and “I know how you feel.” You can never know how someone feels, even if you have been through a similar situation. Time does not heal everything. It is a band-aid that will rip off and expose the wound at any moment. And they do want to hear things will get better soon. Maybe they don’t want to hear anything at that moment. Perhaps they just want to sit in silence. Are you a friend or an acquaintance?