Jesus was a selective person. He loved the multitude, chose twelve disciples, then three more for his inner circle and the disciple that spent a lot of time on his bosom. I was not sure how that worked, my need for space restricted my imagination in it being a pleasant experience. But the scholars explain that it’s not literally, but a place of nearest to the host at a table or how Joshua was a right-hand man to Abraham and Joseph to Potiphar.
So, with my WWJD metric, I gotzz a right to choose my friends, not with an elite mindset, but choosing people who will best help me on my journey and me helping with theirs. It is a lot like inter-cropping. Peas and corns are besties in the farming world, peas convert the atmospheric nitrogen with their nodules, so the soil becomes richer, and corn loves this. The corn shelters peas and assists with the wind breaking. Perhaps we shouldn’t look for our friendships to be two peas in a pod, but corn and pea duos.
I admire this trait in my friends more than anything else. If you haven’t realized by now, I have issues lol. However, sadness doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it helps to be more, what’s the word? Grounded. When I read Solomon’s reflections, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us,” (Eccl. 7:3 NLT) my heart sighed. Melancholy is petrifying. When I don’t see an immediate cause, I tear apart every fabric of my life, examining every thread to find the one is out of place. My weaknesses love this part, they unravel themselves one after the other, barely leaving me with anything to cover my shivering heart. When my friends see me shaking in the wind, they don’t withdraw to expose me more, instead they draw closer, closer in prayer, in word, in deed and literally just laying right beside me without a word. I don’t remember ever feeling so heard, yet we spoke no words.
Job’s friends were the opposite. Their silence didn’t cover, they looked on pitifully, worsening the situation for seven days! (Job 2:13) When a friend is struggling, hurting, sick, broke, pity should never be the response. Jesus offers us the answer, compassion. Pity stays at a feeling, compassion leads to actions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Listening is one of those actions too. If Jesus didn’t listen, we wouldn’t have known most back stories. I think about blind Bartimaeus, Jesus already knew what he wanted, but he said it. The woman with the issue of blood could have been just given a knowing nod, but Jesus asked who touched him. Jesus is a good listener, I mean we pray, sometimes all at once. There’s healing when we talk, too. Real friends listen, not distracted, daydreaming, bored but compassionate, active listening.
Imagine the peas saying to the corn, “You should have learnt to convert atmospheric nitrogen to make nutrients by now. Something must be wrong with your roots.” Our friends are different people. They have preferences, arrive at decisions and perceptions that vary from our way. Most of our impatience and quick judgement stem from these innate differences. Job’s friends took the worst route possible, they judged first and not once asked a question to understand Job’s suffering. (Job 4:8) By a long shot they weren’t wrong in their theology, God punished the wicked, but their understanding was incomplete. God allows suffering that works a far greater glory in us.
We can never be sure that our friends are not a present-day Job. They don’t need arrogant friends who talk down to them, but to convert the truth of the gospel to comfort in those moments. If they struggle with condemnation, knowing that what they are doing is a sin, becomes redundant, it’s clear to them. What they need is encouragement, embellished with grace that leads them to Christ, who is the one to give them a heart of repentance and security in the price paid. If they are reluctant to acknowledge what they do as being wrong, we lovingly but directly point them to a verse or principle in the Word. Here, silence would be to their destruction.
We all have that one friend whose facial expressions are to die for. And their words? A fresh baptism for their lips, please. But what I can agree with is that they usually say what we think- Job is that friend. His sarcasm rang throughout most of the book. Job 12:1-2 is my favorite. But in chapter 6, here was a man wanting to die and all his friends could consider was the exegesis of his statements.
5 Don’t I have a right to complain?
Don’t wild donkeys bray when they find no grass,
and oxen bellow when they have no food?
9 I wish he would crush me.
I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me.
11 But I don’t have the strength to endure.
I have nothing to live for.
14 “One should be kind to a fainting friend,
but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.[b]
15 My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook
that overflows its banks in the spring.
17 But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.
The brook vanishes in the heat.
25 Honest words can be painful,
but what do your criticisms amount to?
26 Do you think your words are convincing
when you disregard my cry of desperation?
Job 6 (NLT)
27 You would even send an orphan into slavery[c]
or sell a friend.
Now tell me if Job isn’t the best! He nailed most of our feelings in suffering. Attempting counsel or comfort becomes meaningless if we ignore one part of the man, the emotions. Job was not right to contest God, he had to repent of that after his request for an audience with The King finally came through (Job 42), but insensitivity will push our friends further into misery. I would caution that focusing only on feelings is dangerous too. Notice God’s response in Job 38-41, did God say the worms are still eating away at your flesh, would you like to share about that? No, he spoke of His majesty, how intentionally he designed creation and how He still rules powerfully over them. But that’s God, what can we do?
We don’t want to make the same mistakes as Job’s friend, playing the role of God. So, here’s our resolve, we love. Love covers a multitude of sin. Dare I add pain, distress and weaknesses. Love shelters. Love too speaks the truth. Love is present. Love doesn’t forsake. Love is patient. Love sees past the arrogance to a hurting heart. Love forgives 490 times in a day. Love texts first. Love is genuine. Love sacrifices. Love seeks reconciliation. Love forgets the past and moves on. Love stands firm. Love isn’t insecure. Loves always points our friends to God, who is their true everlasting shelter. Jesus says the greatest love is when a man gives his life for his friend. Seemingly too much for us? Perhaps we aren’t ready for friendships, just as marriages. J. C. Ryle sums it up beautifully,
This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joys.J. C. Ryle
May our friendships shout the love of Christ like a man lost in a forest. Two, we will find, is better than one. Remember, you are precious.