What The Book of Job Taught Me about Being a Friend

You may look to the Book of Job to understand suffering. Job's story also provides insights for transforming broken relationships into a healthy, supportive community.

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Most of what I’ve learned from Job focuses on dealing with pain and suffering, specifically undeserved pain and suffering. I see  how Job is transformed in his thinking about God and how I might consider community transformation when looking at Job’s interactions with his friends.

Here are a few things I learned from the Book of Job:

Compassion, not condemnation, creates bonds among people

Three of Job’s friends tried to convince him that he had done something wrong or failed to act rightly (specifically, show mercy to the poor) to provoke punishment from God. They firmly believed that bad things didn’t randomly happen to good people.

Job vehemently defended himself and grew increasing frustrated that others thought he deserved pain. His friends’ condemnation may have caused as much suffering as the loss of his children, the loss of his wealth, and his illness. At the end of the book, Job’s innocence is validated by God. His suffering was not caused by Job’s actions or inaction but rather mysterious, unexplained circumstances.

People need to be comforted in a time of loss, not blamed for being in difficult circumstances. If I take the stance of condemnation rather than compassion, not only do I not honor God through my words and actions but I prevent healthy relationships from taking root and growing.

Forgiveness and prayer help build community

Soon after exonerating him, God asks Job to pray for his friends. Embedded in this request is God’s desire that Job forgive those who tried to correct him.

Job recognized that God loves him greatly at the same time he is humbled by God’s greatness. So, he readily complies with God’s request to pray for those who had wronged him earlier.

Understanding my role among my circle of friends from God’s perspective can help me to do my part to build community.

Relationships among friends and community members can be restored

An underlying message is that what’s been lost or destroyed can restored. In this case, Job receives a new family (sadly, not the same one but he does seem to appreciate the new immensely) plus double his former wealth.

In addition to the physical restoration, there is a restoration of friendships. Despite the brokenness from the past, Job is reconciled to those in his tight-knit community and enjoys their company.

Reflecting on this story reminds me that God wants me to take care of those with whom I’m surrounded, not judge them based on what I presume God thinks or feels. I can still hold myself and others accountable for actions. But demonstrating accountability doesn’t mean that I should withhold kindness or compassion. Instead, I can use challenge myself to find ways to support those close to me and those in my community.

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