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At least at the start, Job’s friends got it right, even when his wife didn’t. You recall that Job, “a truly good person, who respected God and refused to do evil” (Job 1:1), lost his children, his property and his wife’s respect. He went through the grinder after Satan wagered God that Job would give up his religion if bad things happened to him.

“You fool!” Job’s wife said after it all came crashing down. “Why do you bother showing respect to heaven? Bless God and die,” by which she meant, “Go ahead and curse God and end it all.” Job, in response to his wife: “You fool! Why should you expect only good in this life? Doesn’t evil visit everyone?”

Brokenhearted and scabbed all over, Job sat under a tree and scraped himself with a pot, until his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite heard what had happened to him and came for a visit. When they saw him from a long way off, they cried their eyes out, tore their robes and threw dust on their heads. “For seven days and nights, they sat silent on the ground beside him, because they realized what terrible pain he was in.” (2:13).

That would have been the perfect response, if it had ended there. It didn’t. Until the climax and denouement, Job, his friends and one other engaged in an extended debate on the meaning of life. The friends insisted that secret sins had visited catastrophe on Job. Job retorted that “I cannot find God anywhere – in front of me or back of me, to my left of my right.” (23:8-9). It would have been nice if his friends had helped him look.

Do you have a small handful of folks who do not bail on you when the going gets tough, who do their best to walk with you? Could you ask for much more?

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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