It was at an evening “prayer” service when a well meaning church lady asks “Oh, where’s so-and-so?” She knows full-well the history of the situation. I ponder for a brief moment, how to answer. And then I confess:
“I don’t really know how to answer that question. Having been honest and open in the past made some folks really uncomfortable. In fact, so-and-so stopped coming here because accusations were made that their ‘lifestyle’ was incompatible with faith.”
There is an implicit rule: “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” And church ladies ask because it’s fertilizer for gossip. Job’s friends pushed him away from God condemning him for being afflicted!
Later that evening during prayer service, there was a call suggesting that if we need prayer for personal issues to come forward. That’s what got us in trouble in the first place with these people!
I realized – do I really need friends like Job? I found an article online talking about “True Friendship.” Here online at Charisma.org and followed that back to the original blog post by Pastor Ron Edmondson.
Ron lists 5 essential attributes of Friendship. (shared below.)
- Thanks for showing up. Sometimes physical presence is the most comforting way to help someone grieve a loss. You came when it was uncomfortable to be a friend. That’s when a true friend is found. You even sat with him — apparently not even eating — for seven days. Thank you. Your witness is well-noted.
- Speak truth. Not what everyone else is saying. Some in your culture believed that all suffering was the result of sin. We know that’s not true about Job. You said some things that sounded good. Culturally acceptable things. But it’s usually best not to provide commentary. Just say what is true. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s only stuff like, “Wow! You’re hurting. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m here for you!”
- Not everything has to be explained. You had a lot of “ideas” why Job was suffering. Thanks for your insight. You just couldn’t possibly understand all that God was allowing in Job’s life nor could you predict his final outcome. Sometimes explanations are more burdensome than they are helpful in a time of grief.
- Silence isn’t deadly. Seriously. Sometimes silence is gold. Even godly. Look at Ecclesiastes 5:2 for an example. You did that — before you started talking. The days you were silent were possibly as much help to Job as anything you did. It was your presence. Don’t be afraid just to demonstrate your love with your presence more than with your words.
- You help me better understand the Bible. The Bible is true. All of it. Cover to cover. I believe that. I know that in the core of my being. Everything in the Bible is truth. But not everything in the Bible is true. It’s truth in that it’s God’s written word. It’s not true unless God said it. Man talks in the Bible. So does the evil one. Some of the things you said weren’t true. You meant well. But, it’s not truth unless it comes from God’s mouth or it amplifies His truth.
I appreciate the five suggestions. But, seriously, how did “prayer” not make the list?
On the subject of outcasts (a Gay person, or AA, a Felon…) how do church “friends” react? We’re all well trained, culturally, how to interact with grieving survivors (e.g. befriend) when those “sinners” pass. What biblical training is there on true “Friendship” for people who remain?
So I ask myself: “What am I doing? Condemning? or Supporting, reaching out to save?”
The Gay person that passed of complications from AIDS, what was their experience like? Did church folks make them feel loved? Or – The sexual predator who’s release from prison includes universal no-contact orders that preclude him from EVER attending church? What’s that like? Where are his “friends.”
Job’s picture of affliction is one we should all recognize. And so is his relationship with his friends on earth. It’s God who’s driving the bus, no matter what we think.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Ro. 5:8
This is the “lesson.” What have I ever given up for a friend?
My question is less related to a ruinous political season we are watching unfold, than it is to direct experience over time. My understanding has become that being surrounded by hypocrites in church is to be surrounded with friends like Job. And so I remember what Job did for his friends (enemies, really – he repented, then prayed), and then God set everything in order. Not an easy suggestion to digest, is it.
There is Prov. 24:10-12 “Saying 25”
If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
It’s those words of “denial” that seem so familiar this summer and fall… isn’t it just blatant uncaring disregard for un-repentance.
And John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Jesus did nothing that He didn’t hear from His Father. And it was thus: “Lay down your life.”
I’d very much enjoy hearing your thoughts.