Then three friends come to visit Job…
I wonder what it would have been like to be one of those friends? You have loved and admired this man for years. He is successful in all the ways you want to be, and he even taught you skills that helped you succeed. You attended parities for his children, maybe even wanted his daughter for your son. You sat at the gate with him and heard his wisdom. There was no one more revered than Job.
And now you find him sitting among broken pottery outside the gates so no one else can catch his “disease.” He’s an outcast. The beautiful clothes are torn to threads. The wealth is gone. The children are gone. His wife is not even there. Some bring him food, I assume, maybe out of pity or compassion. And there may be some dogs around who share it with him, his only company before the friends show up.
Can you see them looking at Job in horror, trying to make sense of what happened to him, trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them? I doubt there were hugs, holy kisses or touching of any kind.
When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. Getting closer, they “raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads towards heaven.” They deeply felt compassion for him and were distressed themselves. They even “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw this his suffering was very great.”
First, let me say that their greatest gift was sitting with him, entering into his suffering without talking. When others suffer, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to enter into their suffering with our presence. Words are not necessary, and sometimes not even helpful. Our presence, our willingness to be “with them,” speaks volumes.
And they didn’t rush away. They spent seven days and nights. This was no vacation. This was away from all their own lives, their investments, their families, their social settings. This was outside of the city, maybe in the cold at night and hot by day. This was in the midst of seeing him scrape his sores, the puss and blood flowing from them. It may have included hearing him moan from the pain, trying to find comfortable positions to sit or lay. It may have been seeing the flies gather in the heat, swarming his wounds, people bring him scraps instead of the fine dining they were use to themselves. They persevered with Job, even as Job persevered.
And they gave him silence. Silence to think his own thoughts, feel his own feelings. Silence to think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings. For seven days, they were silent.
For many of us, we can’t be silent for ten minutes, much less in an environment like this.
And then Job, acutely aware of what he is experiencing and the reality of his life his friends are seeing for themselves, broke the silence and opened his mouth…