Have you ever felt like you didn’t have a clue as to how to help a friend who was genuinely hurting?
Maybe they were struggling with a lingering sickness, a challenging diagnosis, a nasty divorce, job loss, premature death in the family or some other tragedy… But you didn’t know what to say or how to respond?
Do they want my advice?
Should I try to make them laugh?
I’m not really a hugger, but should I try to give them a hug?
Should I jump in and offer to help?
The expression, “in the trenches,” was originally used to describe soldiers engaged in trench warfare in World War I. The recent movie, 1917, by Sam Mendes has several scenes depicting trench warfare. It was brutal and unrelenting.
That’s why today the expression means, “to be engaged and involved, usually in something that is hard and difficult.”
For instance, when sport broadcasters describe two physically dominant football teams facing off against one another, they’ll say something like, “This battle is going to take place ‘in the trenches.’” By that they mean, “This is going to be a hard fought, physically and demanding battle.”
When it comes to relationships we use the expression to refer to going through a lot with someone, especially challenging and difficult experiences in life. “We’ve been ‘in the trenches’ together.”
The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It has a lot to say about the reality of life in this world and about the importance of having friends who will stick with you “in the trenches” of life.
In a moment of time, the entire world of a really good guy named Job came completely crashing down. The book of Job begins with this straight forward sentence.
There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. —Job 1:1 NLT
Time out. Pause for just a moment… This story opens by telling us where it took place. This story took place in the “land of Uz.” If you think the name of your hometown sounds strange, try that one on for size. Uz. This is not the “Land of Oz.” It’s the “land of Uz…”
Uz was evidently some place in the Middle East (v 3). The word basically means, “earth.”
One of the most important things about Uz is that it wasn’t identified as being a part of Israel. In fact, since the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, his story predates the story of God’s activity in the lives of Abraham and his descendants. Job is just a regular guy living in the land of Us. In other words, he was just a regular dude who lived in the real world.
This is so important, and, I believe, intentional. I think God wanted us to know that the problems that get described in the book of Job aren’t just the problems some people experience. They’re problems we all will eventually experience…
All of us will eventually spend some time in the “land of Uz.” Some of you are there right now.
Sometimes Uz is the place where the bottom of your life drops out physically when the diagnosis comes from a doctor indicating that you may have to live with chronic pain for the rest of your life.
Sometimes Uz is the place where you lose your job and the bottom falls out of your life financially.
Sometimes Uz is when your marriage goes south and ends in separation or a very painful divorce.
Uz isn’t a destination location. In fact, it feels about as close to hell as a person can get this side of the grave, and, eventually all of us will spend time there.
Job 1:1 tells us that Job lived in the land of Uz, and gives us a character assessment of his life. He was a really “good guy.” He was a man of character. He regularly did the right thing, not the easy or convenient thing.
Later in the book of Job, the book lets us know that the guy also had deep pockets, and he leveraged his wealth for some really good things. For instance, he used his money to rescue the needy and personally care for those physically challenged and dying. He brought orphans into his home. He even took the power brokers to court to defend the rights of the oppressed and underprivileged. Job was a good guy. His character well established and well known.
But this good guy’s life was about to get totally turned upside down. Trouble was coming to Uz. Uz was going to be a place where some very bad things happened to a really good and godly man. It was going to be a place where suffering would come without any warning or explanation, and that that suffering would wreak havoc and create confusion, depression and despair in Job’s life.
Because despite his excellent track record, the floodgates opened.
First of all, He was financially devastated.
- A gang of warlords from the South stole his oxen and donkeys, after murdering his farm hands (1:13-15).
- Fire fell from heaven and destroyed his sheep and all his shepherds (1:16). We’re talking a freak accident of nature.
- Another gang of warlords come from the North and stole his camels, after murdering all the farmhands that took care of them (1:17).
Job was reeling from all the devastating news he had had to process, when another messenger arrived and shared the news that shattered an already broken man. The messenger lets Job know….
- All ten of his children were killed when a devastating wind storm (possibly a tornado) destroyed the house they were celebrating in (1:18-19).
Don’t miss that… Job suffered the loss of ALL of his kids. Not just one child. That would have been devastating enough. But too lose all ten children in a freak “act of nature.” We’re talking loss of staggering and unimaginable proportions.
The book of Job contains a lot of questions about unexplainable loss. In fact, the book contains a disproportionate number of questions. Over 330 questions are tucked away in the 42 chapters of Job.
Why? Why so many questions? Because the book deals with the mystery of unexplained tragedy — things we’ll never understand this side of heaven. And the sheer number of questions is one way that God lets us know, He can handle our questions. He can handle our uncertainty, doubt and fear.
But all the tragedy I just described is only Round 1. Next, comes Round 2. The losses continued to mount and multiply.
Second, Job lost his health.
He developed some kind of serious skin disease that caused his body to be covered with sores from head to foot (2:7-8). This severe skin issue evidently lasted for months and included…
- inflamed, ulcerous sores that bled, scabbed over, broke open and discharged pus (2:7; 7:5),
- persistent itching (2:8), (The itching was so severe that Job resorted to taking broken pieces of pottery and using them to scrape his skin.)
- disfiguration (2:12), (When Job’s friends showed up they could barely recognize him…)
- loss of appetite (3:24),
- mental and emotional stress, fear and overwhelming anxiety (3:25),
- high fever and chills (30:30),
- and, excruciating, continual pain (30:27).
He became a physically wrecked man.
Finally, after losing his health, his relationship with his wife was also fractured. She couldn’t understand why her life had been upended. She was certain that God must be involved. But she couldn’t understand why or how?
On top of that, when she surveyed all the devastation her husband had experienced — professionally, financially, relationally, physically, emotionally and personally — at this point, death seemed to be the only good option.
So, several months into the ordeal, one day she looked at her husband, the man she loved, and suggested, “Curse God and die…” (2:9)
Job couldn’t believe those words were coming from his wife. And, even though he was broken, hurt and spinning out mentally, emotionally and physically, he looked back at her and said, “You talk like a foolish woman…” (2:10)
That’s so important. Look at his words carefully. He didn’t call her “wicked” or “sinful.” He called her “foolish.” The word means, lacking wisdom or discernment. We might say it like this: “Sweetheart. You don’t mean that… You don’t really want me to do that… That’s the pain and loss talking… You’re not thinking clear…”
At this point, Job was in a state of complete confusion, total isolation, unbearable pain and had absolutely no hope for change. 
Job 2 wraps up with Job sitting in a pile of ashes in the equivalent of the city trash heap. One Bible commentary describes it like this:
“There the city garbage was deposited and burned, and there the city’s rejects lived, begging [for a handout] from whomever passed by. At the ash heap, dogs fought over something to eat, and the city’s dung [waste] was brought and burned. The city’s leading citizen was now living in abject poverty and shame. All that he humanly had left were his wife and three friends…”
—Warren Wiersbe quoted by Chuck Swindoll 
Job’s three friends. Just their mention raises eyebrows.
But, in Job 2:11 Job’s friends hear about his catastrophic loss and make the trip to visit their friend.
They’ve got some interesting names: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite and, “Dadgum the Termite.” Okay, I’m making the last one up. But, the first three show up.
Job 2:11 describe their mission like this, they came to “comfort and console him.”
The word to “console” literally means, “to shake the head or to rock the body back and forth” as a sign of shared grief. (You see this sometimes when a person experiences tremendous trauma, and they go into shock and begin to rock themselves back and forth, evidently attempting to comfort themselves, in much the same way their own mother would comfort or rock them back and forth when they were a child.)
That’s the word, “console.” The word “comfort” means “to attempt to ease the deepest pain caused by a tragedy or death.”
Their love was strong and their grief was so great that these three friends planned just to sit next to Job and take on his pain. They came to “console and comfort him.”
That was their mission. It’s what they initially showed up to do. It’s what they came for. If they had stuck with that, their reputations would be remembered for very different reasons than they’re remembered today.
Scholar, John Hartley, in his commentary on the book of Job, writes the following:
“On learning of Job’s affliction, three beloved friends (Heb. rēaʿ), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, agreed together to travel to Uz in order to console Job. The term for friends has a wide range of meanings, including an intimate counselor . . . a close friend . . . a party in a legal dispute…” [In other words, an advocate or ally].
“Friends often solemnized their relationship with a covenant, promising to care for each other under all kinds of circumstances. The relationship between Job and his three friends gives every evidence of being based on a covenant (6:14-15, 21-23, 27).
“Such a relationship was characterized by loyal love (hesed; e.g., Jonathan and David, 1 Sam 20:14-15).”
That’s so important. According to Harley, the friendship of these four men was characterized by “loyal love” or “hesed.” This such an important concept in Hebrew mind. The word “hesed” is often used in the Old Testament to describe God’s love for us and our love for one another. When it’s used, it is often translated, “loving kindness.”
Whenever Sally Lloyd-Jones, who wrote the incredible, Jesus Storybook Bible, wanted to convey this concept, she described “hesed” with the following words.
“…a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
—Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible
That’s the kind of friendship Hartley says that Job and his three friends had. That’s the way these men loved their friend.
“Motivated by love and their commitment, these men came to console and to comfort Job… With the noblest intentions, these three earnestly desired to help Job bear his sorrow.” 
That was the mission.
Now, if you’ve read the book of Job, you already know these guys ultimately blew the mission. They got a lot wrong. Very wrong. But instead of focusing on all that they got wrong, I want to describe six things these friends got right.
We’ll cover the first two things in this post.
What Job’s Friends Got Right.
Principles for Friends Who Get “In The Trenches”:
1. They stayed CONNECTED.
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered… —Job 2:11 NLT
Somehow even though these men were separated by geography, they found a way to stayed connected. They “heard of the tragedy…”
This brings us to the first “in the trenches” principle:
“In The Trenches” Principle #1:
Covenant friends are INTENTIONAL about
Staying connected has never been more possible, but, at the same time, more challenging than it is today.
I’m aware, it’s impossible to stay connected with everyone, but it’s essential that we stay connected with someone, especially the people that matter most.
Sometimes we talk ourselves out of connections because we can’t possibly stay connected with everyone. But I love the advice that Andy Stanley gives when it comes to an issue like this. He says that we should, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
So maybe you can’t stay connected with everyone, but you can stay connected with someone.
Are you staying connected to the people who matter most to you?
What are two practical things you can do this week to connect or re-connect with the people who matter most to you?2
2. They CREATED a PLAN.
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together… —Job 2:11 NLT
“They made an appointment together…” —ESV
“…met together by agreement…” —NIV
This small group of friends was like a “band of brothers.” When they heard that Job was on the ropes, they immediately got together. I love that the ESV says, “…they made an APPOINTMENT together…”
A few things are inferred by that statement.
First of all, they coordinated with one another. They understood the Michael Hyatt principle that “what gets scheduled gets done.” So, all three pulled out their Full Focus Planners and said, “Okay, what works for you? This is what works for me.”
What gets scheduled gets done.
That’s being intentional. They didn’t “kick the issue” down the proverbial street. They refused to procrastinate. Their friend was struggling, so they said, “We’ve got to do something… Let’s put it on the calendar…” Again, the ESV reads, “…they made an APPOINTMENT together…”
The second thing that is inferred is that before they could bring help and hope to their friend — before they could be there for Job — they had to be there for one another. These men realized, the emotional and spiritual devastation we’re about to walk into is bigger than any one of us. It’s going to take all of us… We need each other. Before we connect with Job, let’s connect with one another.
That brings us to the second “in the trenches” principle.
“In The Trenches” Principle #2:
Covenant friends know that what gets SCHEDULED gets done. They create SYSTEMS and SCHEDULES to strengthen their friendship.
One of the most spiritual things some of us who are reading this post could do right now would be to schedule a date with our spouse. Don’t wait for the devastation. Don’t wait until you reach the “land of Uz.” What gets SCHEDULED gets done. Schedule that date.
Another thing the Holy Spirit could be saying to some reading this post is: “Schedule lunch with your daughter. Schedule a hunting trip with your son. Schedule a night to go see your friend who just lost their job. Stop right now. Coordinate with your band of brothers or sisterhood, and put something on the schedule.”
Check out our next post for the next two things Job’s friends got right. But let’s quickly review:
Covenant friends are INTENTIONAL about staying connected.
Covenant friends know that what gets SCHEDULED gets done. They create SYSTEMS and SCHEDULES to strengthen their friendship.
Who do you need to schedule time with today?
What systems do you need to introduce into your life that will help you stay connected to the people who matter most to you?
 Charles Swindoll, Great Lives (Job), page 33.
 Swindoll, Charles R.. Great Lives: Job (Great Lives from God’s Word) (pp. 33-34). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 John Hartley, The Book of Job, NICOT, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1988, page 85.