They say when you go through tough times you find out who your friends are.
They are wrong.
When you go through tough times you find out which friends know what to say, which friends don’t, and which friends are too scared to say anything at all.
In the Biblical story of Job, Job’s friends often get a bad rap. They don’t know what to say and so they end up saying the wrong things. But when you are at rock bottom, friends who are simply willing to be with you and try to say something are a thousand times better than no friends at all.
Considering Job’s great suffering it would have been easy for his friends to have stayed away out of fear of his pain and anger. Instead they immediately left their homes to be with him. Listen to the account of their journey from Job 2.
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (NIV)
Any friend of mine who is willing to leave their home and sit with me in despair for a week to assure me they love me and I am not alone can say whatever they want to me. It may not be helpful. It may be dead wrong. Still perhaps in our loving conversation I will come to find truth and hope that I would not have found otherwise.
Too often we allow the pain and anger of our suffering friends to cause us to withdraw from them even when we love them greatly. To be faithful friends in hard times, we should try to learn the wise thing to say and when to say them. But more than that, we should take the risk of reaching out to our suffering friends whether we have anything to say at all and trust God to redeem and use even our unwise words said with the best of intentions.
God does expect all of us to be infinitely wise counselors. He does call each and every one of us to love our friends as we have been loved by Christ who promised to always be with us and never forsake us.
Prayer: God of infinite love and mercy, teach us to be there for our friends even when it would be easier to be elsewhere, to sympathize even when we cannot understand, and to love even when we cannot find the right words to say. Amen.