I’ve been reading the book of Job recently. I’m still in the early chapters where it describes Job’s life being terrorized by the accuser, with God’s permission and under His watchful eye.
Talk about tragedy.
They say Job is one of those books that will make you feel better because it makes your problems seem so much smaller compared to his. The man was absolutely pummeled by adversity. In rapid fire succession Job was stripped of just about everything he valued – family, financial stability, and his own health. The looming question was “How much more can Job take before he throws in the towel?”
Read the messy middle and you will see that Job was dazed and confused by the whole thing. His faith was strong at the beginning (1:20-22; 2:8-10) but when the reality of his losses set in, he began to lose touch with the God of hope. At one point he said,
“No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success.” -Job 6:13
How did he make it? How did Job cling to life through his season of being tossed around like a rag doll? Why didn’t he just give up?
There are a number of reasons to be sure, but one thing that stands out to me today is the fact that Job was never without community. His poor wife was understandably shattered, but presumably she stayed with him. And Job also had three friends…
“When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him…” (2:11)
Today I am looking at these three friends a little differently than I used to. I’ve always heard people say how the three amigos let Job down, because their perspective was off. And this is true, because they naively suggested that the reason Job was suffering was because God was judging him, clearly not the case according to Job 1:1.
No, Job was not being disciplined by God. Rather, God was allowing Job’s faith to be tested. Metaphorically speaking, God let Job go through the fire, just as He does every believer from time to time (I Peter 1:6-7). This is not for punishment’s sake, but for purification.
Job’s friends were flat out wrong, but they were present.
Even though the community that Job’s friends provided him during his trials was not a perfect community, it was still a community. And it was that imperfect community that helped Job make it through his nightmare. The conversations and interactions were not always sweet and uplifting, but at least Job wasn’t left to suffer alone. He couldn’t have made it alone.
Neither can we. Some of us might be making the mistake of rejecting faith communities because they are imperfect communities. Because there are people like Job’s friends at our churches – too shallow, too judgmental, too hypocritical, too imperfect – we avoid those communities.
If, by chance, you are waiting for that perfect church or perfect small group to arrive before you finally commit to it, you’re missing out. When we as redeemed-yet-imperfect people come together, we form imperfect communities. But here’s the thing, imperfect community is better than no community.
Like Job, we need friends, even imperfect friends.
On that note, I am thankful for my church and the small groups I’m a part of. It is true, we let each other down sometimes. But more often than not, we’re lifting each other up.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.