WHAT MAKES A FRIEND?
Lord, give me an abundance of hope in this life.
Read JOB 6:1–30
6 Then Job replied:
2 “If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.
4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God’s terrors are marshaled against me.
5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?
7 I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.
8 “Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
9 that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut off my life!
10 Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?
12 Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Do I have any power to help myself,
now that success has been driven from me?
14 “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
16 when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
17 but that stop flowing in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
18 Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go off into the wasteland and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.
20 They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.
21 Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid.
22 Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf,
pay a ransom for me from your wealth,
23 deliver me from the hand of the enemy,
rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’?
24 “Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.
25 How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?
26 Do you mean to correct what I say,
and treat my desperate words as wind?
27 You would even cast lots for the fatherless
and barter away your friend.
28 “But now be so kind as to look at me.
Would I lie to your face?
29 Relent, do not be unjust;
reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
30 Is there any wickedness on my lips?
Can my mouth not discern malice?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Give me a heart like thine, / give me a heart like thine, / by thy wonderful power, by thy grace every hour, / give me a heart like thine” (Author unknown).
What does it mean to be a friend? It won’t be difficult to find thousands of suggestions from the internet. In this chapter we find what a toxic friend is like. In response to Eliphaz’s remarks, Job cries out that the sheer weight of his suffering outweighs the sand of the seas. He complains about God’s apparent indifference to his anguish (1–7). With no strength left to cope with the pain and no hope left to cope with the future, Job urges God to finish his life (8–13). Up to this
point, he is trying to unpack his desperation—before venting his spleen on his friends.
What is a friend supposed to do when “a despairing person” like Job is facing such a crisis? We know that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Job has the same expectation: “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (14). Unfortunately his friends turn out to be as unreliable as intermittent streams which cease to flow in dry season, disappointing thirsty travelers (15–21). A friend is supposed to listen, but Job complains that his friends treat his desperate words “as wind”—something of little value (26). Instead of listening, they correct and argue without ground (24–26). Job is even prepared to be betrayed by them (7).
It is so true that friendship is tested during crisis, as a familiar wisdom quote reminds us: “You find out who your real friends are when you are going through a crisis. The ones worth keeping carry you through and the others fall by the wayside.” Actually Job’s suffering doesn’t end in the prologue, but his greater pain is yet to come as the friends prepare to rub more salt into his wounds.
Thank God for being such a faithful friend to us. Our friends may fail us, but God never forsakes us!
Lord, give me the grace to cope with physical pain as I await the day when pain shall cease to exist.