For weeks we have been reading of Job’s severe physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. Circumstances completely out of his control had isolated Job.
In his loneliness, he needed someone who would stand by his side. Job needed a friend. But the sad fact is that Job did not have the type of friend he needed, and his plea, “Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy, for the hand of God has struck me,” is poignant (Job 19:21). Covered with painful sores, grieving the loss of his family, stripped of his possessions, and trying to reconcile his closely held beliefs about God to the reality of what he was experiencing, Job begs his friends to show him understanding and kindness.
Why would Job have to beg for these responses when his needs were so obvious? In the midst of his intense suffering, Job found that “people jeer and laugh at me…. My friends scorn me” (Job 16:10,20). Job’s friends had moved from support to scorn. And Job’s neighbors and acquaintances mocked him to his face or whispered about him behind his back. How could they be so cruel?
But are we so different? As we look around our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, social gatherings, and even our churches, isn’t that how it is too often? The person who most needs a friend is ignored, becomes the brunt of gossip, or is belittled by others. Their wounds may not be as obvious as Job’s, but they are nonetheless painful, and they give rise to the same sort of vulnerability and anguish.
It may be someone who is a shy newcomer. It may be someone who is unsure of him or herself, awkward, or tentative because of past rejections. It may be someone who does not have the same abilities, standard of living, customs, or background as the majority, and therefore stand out as different from everyone else. Whatever the reason, they are the people standing on the fringes of your group, silently pleading, “Have mercy on me”—be my friend.
People’s rejection and scorn hurt Job so much that he said, “I pour out my tears to God” (Job 16:20). Think about that. Job should have been able to pour out his tears to his friends and even his acquaintances, for Job had much to cry about. But he was rejected. Subtle or blatant, rejection is powerfully destructive.
There seems to be something about another’s vulnerability that brings out the worst in some people, but this should never be the case for followers of Jesus Christ. We are to be friends of the friendless. We are to be the ones to show acceptance to the unwanted. We are to be the ones to show mercy to the vulnerable.
Be the one who shows God’s love to others.
© 2010 Arlina Yates