Nobody wants to suffer, but thank God we don’t have to experience life’s low points alone.
In a story that already involved great loss of his possessions and his children, Job experienced even more hardship when Satan attacked his health, leaving him with sores on his entire body (Job 2:7). He hurt so badly that scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery was his solution, and his wife questioned why he was still holding onto his integrity and not blaming God (Job 2:8–9). The scripture goes on to tell us Job didn’t sin with his lips, despite his hardship.
Job’s friends noticed and showed up: “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).
Job’s friends sat with him in his suffering, even when his sores were so painful and disgusting that they didn’t recognize him. They didn’t try to fix it or change it. They made an appointment to show up and waited with Job.
These same friends also provide a warning to make sure we truly understand what our friends are experiencing and not to pass judgment. Job’s story continues with his friends, before so compassionate, misunderstanding what happened to him and why God allowed his suffering. Job discusses suffering with them in chapters 4–21, and they blame him for his situation, saying he must have brought it upon himself because of his sin. Job ends up calling these friends “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). Even so, Job prays for his friends (Job 42:10–11), and God restores Job’s losses. Job didn’t even ask for his wealth to be returned, but when his relationship with God was restored, so was the material wealth—to beyond what he had earlier in his life (Job 42:12)—including his friends who demonstrated both empathy and imperfection.
The moral of the story: Showing up is paramount, but genuine friendship also requires wisdom and understanding. We need to look beyond ourselves for the good of the other person and withhold judgment.
My losses look nothing like Job’s, but I can mark moments of grief in my own life when certain friends showed up in deep, meaningful ways. I remember the summer I was grieving the unexpected, complicated death of my dad and having so many porch conversations with Becky, who was experiencing her own, different grief of circumstances changing. Monica and I connect easily when we have parenting hardships. Our families have a lot of similarities being formed through adoption, and she understands how that affects spiritual, mental, and emotional health of our kids, especially during the middle school years.
Different seasons will require different things from us as friends. Sometimes we will meet needs; other times we will be the ones who need help. In hard times, friends have to help each other remember God’s promises and trust He’s still working.
In 2016, Dwana experienced her friends caring for her after she had to deliver her stillborn baby boy, Malachi. Her friends cleaned their house and filled their fridge with meals—tangible comforts during deep suffering for a family. Yet her kids witnessed God in the midst of despair. Her four-year-old daughter at the time told her sister, “Mommy’s friends all did this because they love us and know we are sad because we couldn’t keep Malachi, and they love Jesus, so He loved us too.” She watched her parents grieve, but she also watched Jesus comfort her parents through their friends.
More recently, Tiffany experienced this after her son had an ATV accident that left his arm requiring multiple surgeries, including skin and bone grafts. Her son’s eighth-grade year was interrupted and changed, but life went on in some ways. “I’m in a season of life when my close friendships with a few women have been life-giving,” Tiffany said. “They know my lunch and coffee orders and will fold my laundry. I have been shown Jesus through friendships a lot. They have spoken truth in my life—not clichés but in-the-trenches-with-me truth. These hard truths keep faith with me, faith that tells me everything will be okay, and even if not, they will be there to help me figure it out.”
Life has challenging seasons, but God provides relief and truth through our friends—despite their blunders—so we can find healing on the other side.
This is one chapter from Created for Communion: Discovering God’s Design for Biblical Friendship. There is another sample section available on my website as well as other freebies, like One Another verses and a playlist. Buy the whole book here.