Job on friendship (Job 6:14–21)

14 "A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends,
even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
16 when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
17 but that cease to flow in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
18 Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go up into the wasteland and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.
20 They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.
21 Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid. (NIV)

I read Job 6 this morning and was struck by his reflections on true friendship. True friends will stick with you even in the valley of the shadow of death; even in a spiritual desert; even in a faith crisis; indeed, even if you "forsake the fear of the Almighty"

Job's comforters have turned out to be like wadis in the desert that gush with water but which, in the dry season, are empty. Then they have nothing to offer to thirsty travelers. He imagines those crossing the expanses of desert, desperate for water, turning aside to their old "friends"—the wadis—where they have found water in the past. They come thirsty but with hope and expectation. They find nothing but disappointment.

I was struck by the way in which Christian friends can sometimes evaporate on a fellow believer who is struggling with difficult and dark questions. Perhaps, they fear to be forced to confront such questions themselves; maybe they are uncomfortable at the thought of having to rethink their own theology; possibly they don't want to be around when God's 'lightning bolt' strikes their Job-like friend dead.

The book of Job suggests that it is the pious "friends", and not Job, that stand under divine judgment.


Anonymous said…
Thank you, Robin, for pointing out that passage this morning.

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