Friendships that last through tough seasons

This morning I begrudgingly transitioned from the book of Esther to the book of Job. My one year bible plan says if you will read the book of Esther and love it, then you have to read the book of Job, we are in it for the good and the bad. So the book of Job it is. If I was honest, I would confess that the book of Job is easily my least favorite book in the bible. However, I have come to accept it as one of those necessary stuff, not for pleasantries but for the lessons God placed in it. So I asked God to open my heart and speak to me through this book. The journey has begun with some very real truths, a revelation of friendships that last through the thick times.

If you have read the book of Job you know about this not so amazing friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. My mind has been conditioned to think of these guys as the bad friends, the ones that thought that the reason Job was going through a difficult season was because he had sinned against God. That’s cruel right? Think about it, you are going a very rough patch, extremely rough, and the thing your friend who is supposed to be your support keeps asking you is what did you do to deserve this? I think we do it even today, it is the way logical minds work. If something is not working out, there must be a logical reason to it.

So today I found myself being gracious to this Job’s friends. Not because they are doing the logical thing, but because they were there for Job!

“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.”

For whatever reason, I have always missed the above verse and the amazing truths it present, Job’s friends were there for Job. They had made the trip from the corners of their homes so that they could stand by their friend.

Take a few minutes with me and think about Job’s state at the time of this visit. Physically, Job is not looking well, he has sore boils all over his body. As if that’s not bad enough, emotionally he is also a mess. He has a negative attitude, all he does is groan and mourn all day, who wants to be around such a person? As I have thought about these things, I have found new respect for Job’s friends; they did not let the physical or the emotional state of their friend stop them from standing beside him. They may have given him bad advice, they may have even been very wrong in their assessment of the situation, but they stood by him.

This seems to be a trait my parent’s generation inherited as well. They stood by each other through thick and thin. Every time I go to hospital to visit an older relative, I am always surprised by the people I find visiting. They come from far and wide. They make uncomfortable trips, sometimes very expensive trips, inorder to stand by each other.

Equally interesting is how the church of my parent’s generation rally behind their own vehemently. The other day I attended a harambee for a lady who had been hospitalized and was simply amazed by the fact that it was the church that basically raised most of the funds for the lady. They stood beside her, it is the reason most people in that generation belong and own the church, sometimes due to their faith and love for Christ, but also because the church in the days passed was the Bildad’s, and you could therefore not afford to belong to one.

‘Kila mtu na mzigo wake’ generation

On the other hand, I am a child of the generation that is big on convenience. I will be there when it is convenient. I will sometimes need to be cajoled into hand hold me through a situation like this. The physical and emotional state of Job will easily keep me away from him. What if he takes advantage of me? What if he transmits his boils or negative attitude to me? ‘Kila mtu na mzigo wake’.

When I started Lapid Leaders a couple of months back, this was one of the truths I had to come face to face with. I had this grand plan that involved working with many individuals and organizations around me. In my very naïve mind, I thought, “these are my friends, relatives or people around me, we have been through other stuff together, this is a good cause, we will jump in to help.”

It was therefore shocking to SOMETIMES get a ‘what is in it for me response’. Perhaps a rightful response in light of the environment we live in. I have therefore had to re-evaluate my expectations and in the process also learned it was very wrong of me to have some of these expectations. I was in some cases collecting debt, I helped you before, you help me now. I contributed towards this that or the other, you contribute now. That was a very poor mindset. I had become a debt collector, something I have always resented when placed on me.

A friend of mine shared some very sobering truth that I have to keep reminding myself of. That God never blesses you using the people you blessed, that would make us all debt collectors. Instead, we are like pipes, we bless others and move on. In our journey, we meet others who were blessed by others and they bless us. We then become each other’s pipe, moving forward but never backwards.

This has been one of my greatest challenge, to keep moving forward and choose not to collect debt.

Interestingly, as I have interacted with many others who are in involved in social enterprises of some kind or who have gone through a difficult patch of some sort, I have discovered my challenge is a common denominator with many others. The disappointment of the help they had expected but was never delivered seems common. Many have become resentful. I think it is easy, I have felt the resentment creep into my heart as well too many times, I have to keep praying to God to keep my eyes on him and not the stuff around me.

But this experience has taught me 2 things that I wish to be about, one is obviously I need to stop being a debt collector, I pray every day over this.

Having said that…..

But two it is a quest to be the kind of friend who is faithful through all the seasons of life, not just the great ones, but the unpleasant ones as well.

Much as I have sulked over some of the expectations I had that were not met, I have ALWAYS been surprised by the people who came through. It has been humbling and life changing to be the recipient of such love from all sorts of corners, long time friends, new friends, people I still don’t know.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the people who have reached out and become part of this vision. I have been amazed by those who have given of their time, given off of their prayers, given off of their ideas; they have been part of this journey, they have been the angels God has brought my way. The pipe theory has been very true. I celebrate each one of the people God has used to teach me this lesson.

So I have made a new commitment to God, to be a Bildad to a Job once more. To be a friend in time of need, to be a friend who sticks around even when the smell of the boils is troubling. This morning God reminded me that this is what He wants from me, it is what He has called me to.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

That verse is very sobering. As I have loved you so you must love one another. As He has loved us so we must love one another!!! Do you know how hard that is! He loved us so sacrificially. He loved us when we did not deserve to be loved. He gave his everything for us! He did not ask what is in it for Him, He just gave it all for us. And I am to love like that? Yes, He says, we are called to such a sacrificial love.

As if to reaffirm this message, I received this message from God’s Daily Word “We are called to a love that gives and considers the needs of others ahead of our own. We are called to give our time, our tears, our understanding, and even our material resources, not when there is something in it for us, but when necessary. We are called to love enough to rejoice when others rejoice, but also to hurt when others hurt, and to forgive simply because Jesus first forgave us. We are called to love!” This is at the centre of the calling to be a Christian.It is not the giving, the singing, the testimonies, the desire to change the world, the serving, that are at the centre of the Christian walk; at the centre is a call to love sacrificially. that is what distinguishes as the sons of Christ. Because if I speak in tongues but have no love I am like ding dongs. Because if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

So I will try…

It is difficult, believe me. Sometimes being loving is easy and fun, it must have been great being Job’s friend when he had it all together. But it is when it is difficult and smelly that they needed to be there most.

It is in those moments that we must go back to God and ask Him to fill our hearts with love because we truly cannot love in our own strength.

I would be lying if I said I know how or where to start this from. It is a hard journey He is calling me to. So Lord teach my heart to love again. Where I have grown cold, where I have become resentful, where I have become proud, where I have become about me, myself and I, O lord, please heal me and teach me to love as You have loved us.

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