Introduction: Job suffered in ways that few could ever comprehend. Job’s friend Eliphaz responded to Job’s grief by falsely accusing him of being responsible for his suffering. Eliphaz utterly failed Job as a friend. From Eliphaz’s failures, God reveals seven lessons on what a true friend should offer a grieving person. These include: (1) God’s love, (2) forgiveness, (3) compassion, (4) encouragement, (5) emotional support, (6) honest advice, and (7) understanding.
First, after seeing Job suffer unimaginable trials, Eliphaz responded with unfounded accusations that Job caused his own suffering. This only added to Job’s anguish. A true friend instead shows God’s love to a person who is suffering. Second, in his moment of pain, Job again asked for God to end his life. At that time, Job lacked an understanding that God had a bigger plan. Job’s friends condemned him for his attitude. God forgave Job for his improper grief-filled words. A true friend also forgives a suffering person’s improper words. Third, Job pleaded for his friends to show him compassion. Unlike Eliphaz, a true friend shows God’s compassion to a suffering person. Fourth, Job felt hopeless in his suffering. His friends did nothing to build him back up. Unlike Job’s friends, a true friend encourages a suffering person. Fifth, Job compared his friends to a stream that had dried up when a desert traveler needed it. Unlike Job’s friends, a true friend offers support for a suffering person. Sixth, if Job was to be accused of some sin, Job pleaded with his friends to at least name the sin. They never did. Unlike Job’s friends, a true friend offers honest advice to a suffering person. Finally, Job pleaded for his friends to understand his predicament. Unlike Job’s friends, a true friend seeks to understand a suffering person.
Job’s anguish after his many ongoing trials. After Eliphaz made unfounded accusations that Job was responsible for his many intense tragedies, Job cried out in further despair: “1 Then Job responded, 2 ‘Oh if only my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my disaster! 3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas; for that reason my words have been rash.” (Job 6:1-3). After losing all his children and his health, Job cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1-10). He lamented that he did not die at birth (Job 3:11-19). He then cried out for God to let him die (Job 3:20-26). Job admitted that his words were “rash.” Yet, this did not warrant Eliphaz’s attacks. Eliphaz did nothing as a friend to comfort Job. Instead, he made Job’s anguish worse.
Job’s first trial. Job’s first trial included the loss of his physical belongings and wealth. Acting on Satan’s behalf, evil men first stole his animals and then murdered his servants (Job 1:13-15, 17). A fire from the sky then burned his remaining animals (Job 1:16).
Job’s second trial. Job’s second trial happened when he lost his ten children. Satan used a storm to kill all ten children at the exact same time (Job 1:18-19).
Job’s third trial. Job’s third trial came when his wife turned on him during her own grief. Satan used her to encourage Job to curse God and commit eternal suicide (Job 2:9).
Job’s fourth trial. Job’s fourth trial came when he then suffered from debilitating illnesses. For a period of months, Satan caused Job to suffer from: (1) painful, itchy sores from head to toe (Job 2:7-8), (2) decaying, blackened, maggot-ridden flesh (Job 30:30a; 7:5a), (3) hardened, dead flesh with oozing scars (Job 7:5b), (4) burning bone pains (Job 30:30b), (5) difficulty breathing (Job 9:18), (4) sleeplessness from intense pains (Job 30:17; 7:3-4), (5) misery and sorrow (Job 17:7; 30:27-28), (6) intense crying (Job 16:16; 16:20b), (7) ongoing fatigue and anxiety (Job 16:7a; 3:26), (8) nightmares (Job 7:14), (9) severe emaciation from an inability to eat (Job 17:7b; 19:20; 33:21), (10) a repulsive appearance and breath (Job 19:17), (11) public scorn and abandonment (Job 16:20a; 19:13), and (12) depression and suicidal ideation (Job 6:9; 7:15-16; 9:21; 10:1).
Job’s fifth trial. Job’s fifth trial came from his friends. After hearing Job’s bitter cries of agony about his life, Eliphaz questioned what had happened to Job’s confidence and hope in God (Job 4:6). He then stated that a person reaps what they sow in life and implied that Job was reaping the consequence of a hidden sin (Job 4:7-11). He then stated that he would turn to the God who can perform any miracle and implied that Job had failed to do this (Job 5:8-16). He then stated that God disciplines those that He loves and implied that God was disciplining Job for a hidden sin (Job 5:17). Thus, without any evidence, he alleged that Job was responsible for the deaths of his children and his other tragedies.
Love others in their time of need. Instead of condemning Job with false accusations, Eliphaz should have shown him love: “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jo. 13:34-35). If someone is suffering around you, are you showing them Jesus’ love?
Love others by doing nothing that would stumble another person. The love of Jesus should also prompt a believer to avoid causing others to stumble in their walk: “14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.’” (Lev. 19:14). “[B]ut rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.” (Ro. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9, 13). Are you doing things in your walk that might cause others to stumble?
Job blamed God for his ongoing trials. Job disputed Eliphaz’s accusations of hidden sins and instead alleged that God alone was responsible for his many tragedies: “4 For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God line up against me. 5 Does the wild donkey bray over his grass, or does the ox low over his feed? 6 Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of an alkanet plant? 7 My soul refuses to touch them; they are like loathsome food to me.”’ (Job 6:4-7). By referencing the natural act of wild animals feeding, “Job means to say that his own complainings are as natural and instinctive as these of animals.” (Pulpit commentary on Job 6:5) His reference to “something tasteless” referred to either his seemingly worthless life or the advice that Eliphaz had given him.
Job sadly believed that God viewed him as an enemy. The beginning and ending of Job’s long reply to Eliphaz included Job’s metaphor of God shooting arrows into him (Job 6:4; 7:20). He later openly questioned why God considered him His enemy: “Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). “He has also kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.” (Job 19:11). He did not yet know that God allowed Job to suffer as part of His greater plan that was beyond Job’s limited understanding: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28).
Job was not the only godly person to question God. The psalms are also filled with complaints where the psalmist believed that God had forsaken him: “LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I was miserable and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I grow weary.” (Ps. 88:14-15). “Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and oppression?” (Ps. 44:24). “Why will You forget us forever? Why do You abandon us for so long?” (Lam. 5:20). “A Psalm of David, for a memorial. LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, and do not punish me in Your burning anger. For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, and Your hand has pressed down on me.” (Ps. 38:1-2). If these men could grumble against God in moments of weakness and be forgiven, don’t condemn someone whose faith falters during a trial.
God forgave Job’s grieving statements. God knew what Job had just endured. Job had admonished his wife for telling him to curse God by saying: ‘“Shall we actually accept good from God but not accept adversity?’” (Job 2:10) The Bible celebrates Job for his endurance through his many trials (Jam. 5:11; Ezek. 14:14). God will also remember your great acts of faith and service. Yet, He will remove any memory of your sinful actions. “I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Is. 43:25; Heb. 8:12; Ps. 103:12). If God will forgive your angry and ungrateful comments against Him, will you forgive the angry and ungrateful comments that others may make against you or against God (Matt. 6:15)?
God will also forgive your sins when you forgive others. Jesus also warns that you must forgive others to be able to receive God the Father’s forgiveness: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15; Mk. 11:26). If you are looking for God’s forgiveness, don’t delay in forgiving others.
Forgiveness should be granted liberally. Jesus warned that you should grant forgiveness liberally and often: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matt. 18:21-22). Eliphaz failed to forgive Job for his complaints against God. If someone around you shows a lack of faith or utters improper comments during a time of grief, will you forgive them?
Job’s plea for God’s mercy to end his life. Because he believed that God considered him as an enemy, Job pleaded for God to kill him and end his suffering: “8 Oh, that my request might come to pass, and that God would grant my hope! 9 Oh, that God would decide to crush me, that He would let loose His hand and cut me off! 10 But it is still my comfort, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” (Job 6:8-10). Job could not fathom that his pain served a greater purpose as part of God’s plan (Ro. 8:28). Thus, he saw no hope that God would one day restore him, and he feared that he might actually curse “the Holy One” if his intense pain continued.
Job’s pleas for a mercy killing were ongoing. Job previously pleaded with God to end his life (Job 3:20-23). Job would also later again reject his life while speaking with his friends: “I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I reject my life.” (Job 9:21). These were obvious signs that Job was not in the right mind for a theological debate.
Job was not the only godly person to ask for God to kill him. Like Job, Moses also at one point asked for God to kill him: “So if You are going to deal with me this way, please kill me now, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my misery.”’ (Nu. 11:15). Elijah also at one point asked for God to kill him: “But he [Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, ‘Enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”’ (1 Kgs. 19:4). Jonah also asked for God to end his life: “So now, LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:3). These examples show that God will forgive your lack of faith during times of tragedy.
God is compassionate and forgiving to those who waiver in their faith in times of trial. Some might feel tempted to judge Job for his lack of faith in wanting to die. Yet, as one commentator observes: “Few suffer as intensely as Job; so it difficult for us to identify with his rage. But for those who have a similar experience, the words of Job can bring immense comfort for the simple reason that many suffers have felt rage but have been too ashamed to express it. That a man who had experienced such faith should speak from the depth of his being such words of anguish can only strengthen those in anguish.” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 900).
Give thanks that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on your faithfulness. God did not give up on Job after he wanted his life to end. He also remained faithful to His promise to never forsake the Jews: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; 4:31; Heb. 13:5). Even when the Jews rebelled against Him, He remained faithful (Neh. 9:18-19). You can also give thanks that His faithfulness is not conditioned upon our faithfulness: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that God will not use your sins or improper grief-filled statements to revoke His promises to you?
Show the compassion and comfort that God offers you to others. God offers you His comfort when you are feeling pain or sadness: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). God in turn asks you to be kind and compassionate toward others: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;” (Col. 3:12). “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “This is what the LORD of armies has said: ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;’” (Zech. 7:9) When someone around you is hurting, offer them the same compassion and comfort that God offers you.
Job’s feeling of hopelessness. Because he believed that God had abandoned him and because he could not turn to his wife or friends, Job felt that his situation was hopeless: “11 What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should endure? 12 Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? 13 Is it that my help is not within me, and that a good outcome is driven away from me?” (Job 6:11-12). A modern day motivational speaker would have told Job to find his inner strength during his time of loss. Yet, as a man of faith, Job knew that God alone was the truth source of his strength. If God was not with him (as he incorrectly believed) he had no hope in finding strength.
Encourage one another with love in times of distress. Even if Eliphaz were correct in his belief that Job was a sinner (and he wasn’t), this was neither the right time or manner to confront Job. Even if Job had sinned, Eliphaz should have employed love and encouragement to bring Job to a better place. God wants you to be a source of encouragement to others. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). Will you encourage others the way God is there for you?
Job’s disappointment with his friends. Job felt that his friends had profoundly let him down by offering unsupported blame when he only asked for comfort and kindness: “14 For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not abandon the fear of the Almighty. 15 My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which drain away, 16 which are darkened because of ice, and into which the snow melts. 17 When they dry up, they vanish; when it is hot, they disappear from their place. 18 The paths of their course wind along, they go up into wasteland and perish. 19 The caravans of Tema looked, the travelers of Sheba hoped for them. 20 They were put to shame, for they had trusted, they came there and were humiliated. 21 Indeed, you have now become such, you see terrors and are afraid. 22 Have I said, ‘Give me something,’ or, ‘Offer a bribe for me from your wealth,’ 23 Or, ‘Save me from the hand of the enemy,’ or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the tyrants’?” (Job 6:14-23). Job later lamented: “All my associates loathe me, and those I love have turned against me.” (Job 19:19). He did not ask for money or help. It was not as if he had asked them to pay a ransom to save his life (Job 6:23). He only wanted comfort. Instead, he received scorn and unfounded blame. As one commentator observes: “Even though only Eliphaz had previously spoken, Job addressed his brothers collectively. Either this was out of politeness (not wanting to single out Eliphaz), or because Job believed that the attitude and silence of his other companions meant they agreed with Eliphaz. Job accused them of being as unreliable as a snow-fed stream that vanishes when it is hot. . . . ‘How great a contrast to the love and friendship of Jesus! Not like a brook that dries in the time of drought, but like a well of water springing up within the heart forever.”’ (David Guzik on Job 6) (internal citation omitted).
Job was not the only godly leader to have his friends turn on him. The psalms are also filled with bitter laments of friends who turned on godly people during their time of need: “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand far away.” (Ps. 38:11). “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” (Ps. 41:9). Jeremiah also felt a similar betrayal: “Why has my pain been endless and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?” (Jer. 15:18).
Jesus was also betrayed. Jesus first had Judas betray Him: “And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.” (Matt. 26:23; Jo. 13:18, 26). His disciples then turned on Him and denied Him when He was crucified.
Offer physical and emotional support to those in need. Loving others also includes a desire to help others in need. Helping others in need is part of Christ’s summary of the second half of the Ten Commandments: “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39-40.) God exhorts that every believer help those in need: “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17.) “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3.) Throughout the Bible, God also exhorts believers to take care of those in need (Prov. 31:9; 29:7; 14:31; 31:9; Ps. 82:3; Dt. 15:7-8; Matt. 5:44; Lk. 14:13.) In the Old Testament, God required that the poor be allowed to glean the fields so that they would not go hungry (Ex. 23:10-13; Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19-21). Yet, it would be a mistake to see this as being limited to physical needs. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17.) On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will ask what each person did for the poor and the needy. (Matt. 25:40.) This includes both physical and emotional help. Are you offering support to those who are in pain?
Job’s plea for advice. Job demanded that his friends back up their charges against him with evidence: “24 Teach me, and I will be silent; and show me how I have done wrong. 25 How painful are honest words! But what does your argument prove? 26 Do you intend to rebuke my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind? 27 You would even cast lots for the orphans, and barter over your friend.” (Job 6:24-27). Eliphaz ignored Job’s complaints and showed him no compassion. At a minimum, if Job was accused of being a sinner, he was entitled to know what sin he had committed.
Eliphaz unfairly persecuted Job. Eliphaz treated Job’s words of pain as if there were just “wind” (Job 6:26). This term was used to define words that were meaningless: “Is there no end to windy words? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:3). “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill himself with the east wind?” (Job 15:2). “He labeled them as men of such severe cruelty that they could have cast lots for an orphan or bartered away a friend (v. 27). (Gaebelein, Smick, p. 901). “He requested them to address his situation, not merely argue with him about whether or not he had sinned. Job already had found their counsel unproductive and meanspirited . . . The cruelest elements of the friends’ speeches are yet to come in the book, but even at this early stage Job reminded them of their heartlessness.” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 105).
God’s servants are frequently persecuted without cause. There are many examples of godly people who were persecuted without cause. For example, Elkanah’s wives also taunted Hannah in her time of distress (1 Sam. 1:7). Saul persecuted David without cause (1 Sam. 19:1-15). Jesus was also persecuted and crucified without cause (Ro. 6:10).
Love others by guarding your tongue from harming others with false statements. Unlike Eliphaz, you can show Jesus’ love by doing nothing to cause injury to others with false statements: “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another . . ..” (Zech. 8:16; 3:13). “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 2:17; 24:28). “16 ‘You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, . . .’” (Lev. 19:16(a)). A “slander” is someone who has been given over to a depraved mind (Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20). The Bible also warns that a “slanderer” is a “fool” (Prov. 10:18) who separates “intimate friends.” (Prov. 16:28). “He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend.” (Ps. 15:3; 14:5; Ex. 23:1; Prov. 5:18; 25:18; Eph. 4:25). “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (Jam. 3:5-6). Do you guard your tongue to avoid hurting others? And, are your words of advice motivated by love?
Job’s plea for his friends’ understanding. Because he knew that the charges against him lacked merit, Job pleaded for his friends to show him understanding and compassion: “28 Now please look at me, and see if I am lying to your face. 29 Please turn away, let there be no injustice; turn away, my righteousness is still in it. 30 Is there injustice on my tongue? Does my palate not discern disasters?” (Job 6:28-30). When his friends’ attacks continued, Job later repeated his claim that the charges against him lacked merit: “Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated.” (Job 13:18). We also know from God’s statements about Job that he was not a sinner (Job 1:9; 2:3). Thus, Job was correct in his complaints. He was entitled to compassion, not attacks.
Show God’s love by seeking to understand those who are suffering. Part of showing love and compassion includes a desire to understand the reasons for a person’s suffering. This should begin by listening to the person who is suffering. You can then pray for wisdom and read God’s Word (Jam. 1:5; Prov. 2:6; Ps. 51:6). The Holy Spirit will guide your words of advice for others in need (Jo. 16:13; 14:16; Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). Do you listen to others and then pray and read God’s Word before giving advice to others?