11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
During a recent quiet time, this passage popped up and it truly made me stop and think. Most of us know the story of Job, but we honestly fail to give more than five seconds of credit to his friends for their initial reaction to Job’s suffering. Let’s all understand that when these three friends heard about Job’s suffering, they set out from their homes and went to be with Job to offer sympathy and comfort.
What I love about the emotional engagement flow picture is that when Job’s friends saw him from a distance, they transitioned from sympathy to empathy. These friends could barely recognize their dear friend; they began to weep aloud and even tore their robes in complete mourning.
Let’s make a very clear statement: The only way you can move from sympathy to empathy is if you make an intentional step to see someone’s pain.
These men had to literally leave their homes to go visit their friend. Those that know me well know that I speak of encouragement just as much as I speak of spiritual warfare.
Let’s make another very clear statement: If you are seeing from afar then you are not truly seeing at all.
What does this mean? If Job’s friends would have stayed in their homes, they would have never seen Job’s suffering for what it really was and would have never emotionally moved across the interpersonal engagement flow.
Another good example of showing interpersonal engagement is offering your physical presence without saying a word. Often times we feel as though we have to offer immediate advice, suggestions, and personal opinions. Yet, this is not warranted in many situations. We see from this passage that no one said a word for seven days. I love this!
Here’s yet another very clear statement: Sometimes the hearts communicate when the mouths cannot.
Now granted…the moment these friends started talking, things went off course. Just because you have a word does not mean it’s from God nor does it mean it’s good advice. In fact, Job 42:7 says, 7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”
Sadly, I know I’ve done this a time or two in my life. In full transparency, I can be too quick to offer advice, and just because it “sounds good” doesn’t mean it’s from God. I won’t get into all the other components of this book. I simply was pierced after reading this passage.
However, I most certainly wanted to challenge you with looking at how you fit on this interpersonal engagement flow. Some fall immediately to pity and never move because of pride, resentment, and judgement while others have a spiritual habit of landing right on compassion every time.
Questions: Where do you land? Do you move by making an effort?
Challenge: Where do you fall typically on the interpersonal engagement flow? How can you make this an exercise this week?