I mentally wrestle with the idea of freedom and choices quite a bit. The idea that people intentionally choose harmful things is difficult for me. I won’t share the reasons why because I don’t want to share stories that are not my own. However, from people who choose to stand on street corners to those who steal billions of dollars, I fight the idea of “free will” that allows people to choose things that will cause them or others harm.
I’ve been to Central America several times in the past thirty years. The most recent came as I visited the Micah Project in Honduras. (My last time there was 2014.) This particular mission began 20 years ago when God put it on the heart of Michael Miller to reach out to young men (and women) on the streets of Tegucigalpa.
One of the challenges of meeting with these street-connected kids is to wonder why they won’t choose a better option. If you could choose between living on the street and sleeping on a piece of cardboard or living in a home with food and a comfortable bed, which would you choose? If you could choose between begging and scrounging for food or having a full plate, which would you choose? If you could learn to read and receive an education, wouldn’t you choose that option?
Job was offered a suggestion by his wife: “Curse God and die.” It’s easy to see why Job chose to decline this suggestion. But then three friends appeared with suggestions of their own…
Before we get to those suggestions, let’s ask who were these three friends? (We’ll get to mystery guest number four later. Was he already there? Did he arrive later? Hmmm…)
We don’t know a lot about any of them. 2: 11 tells us that they heard about all the troubles, set out from their homes, and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Beyond that and the places of their origination, we know nothing.
I am astounded at what they did when they arrived.
For seven days and seven nights, they did nothing.
They didn’t talk.
They didn’t try to do anything.
They did nothing.
Take a moment to put on your sandals and consider different points of view. If you were Job, would you have wanted them to do anything? If you were Eliphaz, or Bildad, or Zophar, what would you have wanted to do? If you were Job’s wife, perhaps observing, what would you have wanted to do?
Remember something important: The Bible was written by real people, living in real places, at real times. If you struggle to use your informed imagination and put your sandals on, think about your own life.
In your own struggles, in your own times of pain, in your own hurt and sorrow, what have you wanted? Did you want a person to “fix” everything? Did you want someone to tell you what you should have done or should not have done?
We will get to the actual conversations that ensued after Job began speaking, but for now, consider not what you want but what you want to be. What kind of friend, brother, sister, employee, employer, spouse, or neighbor do you want to be?
All who know me know I am far from perfect. I can always be better. And this is one of those things I so desperately want to be better at and to more faithfully practice.
Let’s burrow down to the bottom-line: Be present.
That’s it. Don’t worry about giving answers. Don’t worry about saying the right (or wrong) thing. Don’t stress. Don’t fret. Don’t be anxious. Don’t try to give suggestions, improvements, corrections or anything else.
Simply be present.
Be with others. Love them. If someone is hurting, hurt with them. If someone is joyous, celebrate with them. If someone is grieving, grieve with them. If someone is excited, share that excitement.
We’ll explore the conversation next, but let’s keep it simple for now. Be.