Where Were You When I Needed You? (Oops, wait a second, I didn’t need you.)

by Tad Lindley

I can just about guarantee you that if you won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes tomorrow and suddenly you were getting $500,000 a year for the next twenty years, that people you haven’t even thought about in years would suddenly be friend requesting you on Facebook. People who formerly seemed to have forgotten your name would suddenly cross over from the other boardwalk to shake your hand and hug your neck. Everyone would want to be your friend. You might even start to think, “Where were all these people when I was broke and on food stamps? How come they never came around when I was down and out? Where were they when I needed a friend to lift my spirits? Why are they suddenly showing up now that I’m made out of cash?” Nobody knows this story like Job does.

Job’s story

Pretty much all you need to know about the tragedy that struck Job’s life can be found in Job chapters 1 and 2, but I will summarize it here in case you don’t have your Bible handy. One day the devil came to visit God, and God began to brag on one of his favorite people, “Have you considered my man Job,” he asked the devil. The devil began to talk bad about Job. He told the Lord, “He’s only serving you because you let him get rich. Watch, take away his stuff and he’ll curse you to your face!”

Everything, but his wife and his health

The Lord let the devil destroy Job. In the space of about 15 minutes he received the news that all ten of his children had died, and that he lost everything that he owned. The only things that Job had left were his wife and his health, but still he refused to turn away from God. In fact upon receiving the news, he tore his clothes, shaved his head, and fell down on his face and worshipped God.

Devil vs. Job rematch

Again the devil came before God, and God said, “How about my man Job? He’s still serving me!” The devil said, “Let me take away his health, and he’ll walk away from you and never look back!” And so it came to pass that Job not only had 10 fresh graves in the cemetery and was on food stamps and waiting for his first unemployment check, but now he had boils covering his body from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. At least he still had his wife, but then she turned vicious on him and began to tell him to curse God and die.

My man needed a friend

Even though Job refused to turn his back on God, he was in pretty dire straits. I don’t guess most of us would have traded places with him. And it turns out that only three of his friends (understand that Job was extremely well-known when he was a wealthy man and had many, many friends and family) showed up. For about the next 36 chapters in the book of Job, they debate with Job about his situation. They tell him things like, “You must have sinned pretty bad for all of this to happen. What websites were you looking at?” And Job would protest his innocence, “I made a covenant with my eyes, why then should I look upon a maid?” (31:1) They would come back with more charges of secret sin, and Job will proclaim his innocence again. They were not the best of friends, but at least they came.

When the money came back

The thing that makes me so mad when I read the Book of Job occurs at the very end. God blessed Job. In fact he got double the wealth and a new house full of children. I’m not mad about that, but look what happens as soon as he got all of his stuff back: Then came there unto him all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him… (42:11) Did you catch that? He had brothers and sisters, and he had a multitude of friends and acquaintances. As soon as all the money came back, here comes the people!

Where were they?

I can’t help but ask, why weren’t they at the 10 casket funeral? Where were they when his wife was egging him on to commit suicide? Where were they when he needed help changing his bandages and scraping his boils? Where were all of these people when he was broke and needed a friend to sit by him and tell him that somebody still believed in him? Well, they weren’t there, until Job got some money back in his pocket and some meat back on the drying racks, then they showed up, all of them, wanting to tell him how sad they were for his tragedy.

Job didn’t need them anyway

The thing is, Job didn’t need a one of them anyway. Job didn’t need his brothers or his sisters or his friends. He didn’t even need his wife. He had something far greater than any of them could have offered him even on their best day: he had hope. Even though he fully expected to die from his boils, he still pressed on in his desperation with this single hope found in 19:25-27. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Job wasn’t looking for the people around him to lift him out of his pit. And brothers and sisters let us do the same. People will disappoint us. Even those closest to us may not be there when we need them, but we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) in our Lord. So whenever a thumb-sucking spirit overtakes us and we begin to think, “Where were you when I needed you,” it’s time to do like Job and take our eyes off of people, and get them focused on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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