If you are suffering, get yourself this friend ASAP

5 min read

A young man speaks up in Job’s conversations with his friends. Job’s friends, elderly and experienced, had spoken first. They had given Job advice on why he was suffering. Much of it is accusations and false assumptions, but elderliness gives them sway. This young man has been holding his breath all the while. He speaks up. Burning with anger, he rages poetic; I am full of pent-up words, and the spirit within me urges me on. I am like a cask of wine without a vent, like a new wineskin ready to burst! I must speak to find relief, so let me give my answers. I won’t play favourites or try to flatter anyone. For if I tried flattery, my Creator would soon destroy me. (Job 32:18-22 NLT)

The young man then rebukes Job for his self-righteousness and then rebukes the older friends for falsely accusing Job. This was a bold move in a culture where the elderly were held in high esteem, their words unvarnished. This young man had some balls, we would say.

Job is me when bad things happen. When bad things happen to me, I quickly look at my performance. Have I been good? Have I been bad? If I’ve been good, why are these things happening? Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, right?

This young man could not take it. Yoh Job, you are wrong, and I will show you why. For God is greater than any human being. (Job 33:12 NLT)

A detour of sorts…

Something sticks out to me about this young man. He is young in years, timid and afraid. It’s amazing how throughout scripture God uses the inexperienced, timid and afraid. Think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon, Mary and many others. When God points them out they are at their most inexperienced. In Job’s case, it was this young timid, afraid and inexperienced young man. This flies on the face of experience. The world would have us believe and that experience is the best teacher. Job’s young friend disputes.

Solomon, the sage, once told a story that a great king and his army surrounded a small town with few people. In that small town lived a poor man who saved the small town by his wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:15). Weren’t there any military advisors who advised the king? Of course, they were, but help came from a poor man. The idea here is this, most times grace comes to us from unusual sources. Most times, it’s the wisdom of the inexperienced, foolish, weak, least, timid and afraid that helps us. This is counterintuitive. They advise us to seek expert advice on everything. From fitness, diet, health, education, technology, spirituality to parenting etc. Our world is littered with experts on everything and anything. Sometimes because of the litany of experts, it can be confusing. The Bible has this idea that wisdom can come to us from the least expected of people and places. Mostly the ones we overlook and underestimate. I’ve always thought married couples receive counselling from a single guy called Paul. Job’s help came from an inexperienced, timid and afraid young man.

Back to the young man

Then the young man says something amazing. He continues to wax lyrical about our suffering and pain but then introduces a mediator, grace and ransom. If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and he is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom (Job 33:23-24 ESV)

Yes, young man, you just introduced to us the sum total of the gospel of grace. What was your longing has become our reality.

Yes, we do have a mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy  2:5, Hebrews 9:15, 12:24) and he is merciful—Hanan—full of grace (John 1:14) and he is our ransom (kopher) Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6. Guys, this is the gospel.

Notice what the young man did there? He shifted Job’s view from himself to something outside of himself. From uncertainty to certainty. From the superficial to the real. From the temporal to the eternal. If you will suffer well, you need to have a view change. Your view will only change if you seek or get friends who point you to the gospel of grace.

Hey Christian, listen, you are the company you keep, right? As you go through suffering, your friends will either make you bitter or better. Bitter, if they remind you how good you are, how great you are, how eventually you will come out of this, how you don’t deserve all these bad things, how life is unfair and you are the fair one. If they point you to your performance—good or bad, they are doing you a disservice.

You will only get better if they point you to Jesus and to the gospel of grace. Suffering becomes easier to deal with if you know what Jesus has done for you.

One thing I’ve learnt to say over the years is this, you have forgotten the gospel. I learnt this from Peter in 2 Peter 1:9 (NKJV) For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

I use this line on myself all the time because I slip into my performance—good or bad when I encounter suffering. When Jenny gets fidgety, anxious and restless, and needs some advice or even when I chat with friends who need help, I usually throw in this line in varied forms. I might say, dig into the gospel for wisdom on how to deal with such-and-such, rest, relax, take it easy, it doesn’t depend on you, go to sleep, go on vacation, slow down, God’s got you, chillax, etc.

Thank God Job had this young man to point him to the gospel. When Jesus was on the cross, there was no mediator, grace or ransom for him. On the cross, his flesh was torn up. On the cross, God rejected his prayers. On the cross, Jesus became sin. On the cross, he was punished for sins he hadn’t committed. He went down into the pit and he only looked upon darkness. At the foot of the cross were Job’s older friends. They taunted and mocked him. They told him his suffering had come on him because he had done some bad things.

Why did he go through all these?

He did it for us. He did it so we could have a mediator, grace, and our sins ransomed. He did it for us. He had no gospel pointing friends so he could become our gospel pointing friend by his spirit (John 16:10) and so we could also be gospel pointing friends to those who are suffering around us.

If you are sick, jobless, depressed, broke, fearful, anxious, restless, and weak, get friends who will point you to the sufficiency of God’s abounding grace. Friends like Job’s young friend who will remind you of what Jesus has done for you.

Get yourself this friend ASAP.

That’s what grace looks like.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash