Friends Show Up!

IN THE TRENCHES! Stay All Day! — Part 2

What Job’s Friends Got Right.
Principles for Friends Who Get “In The Trenches”:

We covered the first two things Job’s friends got RIGHT in the previous post.

3. They SHOWED UP.

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes… —Job 2:11 NLT

“Showing up” is the essence of what an “in the trenches” friend is all about.

Job’s friends took the time and went to the expense to travel so that they could spend time with their friend. They left their jobs and families behind to travel to be with Job.

They could have stayed home. They could have sent an email or text that said, “Let us know if you need anything… Praying for you.” Texts, emails and phone calls make connecting convenient and sometimes are our only option and can be really helpful. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a thoughtful text, email or call? But ultimately, they can never replace you or your presence.

Job’s friends actually showed up.

Someone once famously said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Perhaps we should edit that to read, “Eighty percent of relationships is to just keep showing up!”

That brings us to principle #3.

“In The Trenches” Principle #3:
Covenant friends know that our PRESENCE is one of
the most powerful gifts we have to offer.

Here’s what I mean:

Covenant friends show up PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY and EMOTIONALY.

They are PHYSICALLY present because they understand that relationships are built on time together.

Here’s a question to ask yourself:

Am I spending time with the people I love? My spouse? Family? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Small group? Band of brothers? Sisterhood?

Am I physically present?

Covenant friends show up physically.

They are also EMOTIONALLY and MENTALLY present, as well.  

Over the past two decades, smart phones have brought incredible conveniences to our lives, but they’ve also created a whole new set of challenges for relationships, as well. In many ways, they are wreaking havoc on our relational world.

In 2019, research indicated that the average American checked their phone about 96 times per day, or once every 10 minutes. That was a 20% increase from similar research conducted just 2 years prior to that. On top of that, 18-24 year-olds check their phones twice as much as the national average. [1]

Here’s part of the problem with that.

The moment you place your iPhone on the table in the presence of a friend, you’re communicating something. You’re communicating that, “whatever happens on that small device is more important than the actual flesh, blood and bone individual sitting before me right now.”

Here’s a simple suggestion: Unless you’re a parent who needs to be reachable in case of an emergency, when you’re spending time with the people you love, put the iPhone away. Turn off all the notifications. Log off Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Turn off the television. In other words, eliminate distractions.

In 2021, one of the most powerful statements you can make about the importance of your relationship with someone is to spend time with them and never even acknowledge that your phone exists. Simply be physically, emotionally and mentally present with your friend.  

Make eye contact with them.
Listen.
Ask questions.
Listen even more.
Be there — mentally and emotionally.

See what this does to the quality of your relational world.

Here’s another important question to ask:

Am I present emotionally and mentally with the people I love the most? Are there any distractions I may need to eliminate from my life so that I can be more fully present with the people who matter to me?

“In The Trenches” Principle #3:
Covenant friends know that our PRESENCE is one of
the most powerful gifts we have to offer.

Here’s principle four.

4. They CARED.

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him—Job 2:11 NLT

“…show him sympathy and comfort him.” —ESV

“…keep him company and comfort him.” —MSG

We’ve already talked about the meaning of the two words, comfort and console. The word comfort means “to attempt to ease the deepest pain caused by a tragedy or death.” And, the word to console literally means, “to shake the head or to rock the body back and forth” as a sign of shared grief. That’s what these guys initially showed up to do. Again, this was their mission.

When they first arrived, they got so much right! Check out Verse 12.

12 When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. —Job 2:12 NLT

In other words, these guys had heard that it was bad, but nothing could have prepared them for this.

Most of the time, when we visit someone who is in a difficult situation or who has experienced a tragedy, our goal is to cheer them up and to help them regain perspective. We might even say something like, “Hey, I know it’s bad, but it could have been worse. So much worse.”  When Job’s friends saw him, they were so blown away by his appearance, that there was no use pretending.

Ancient tradition in the Middle East indicated that in order to express grief and sorrow, you would tear your clothes and put dust and ashes on your head. This is exactly what Job did in Job 1-2. It’s how he responded to the bad news he received. By the end of Job 2, he was literally sitting on an actual heap of ashes to express his deep grief of all the calamity that had occurred in his life.

It’s interesting to note that when his friends arrived, they did the very same thing. Each of them tore his robe and put dust on his head.

Why? Because they wanted to be united in spirit and even appearance with their friend. They came to stand in solidarity with Job. Apparently, they weren’t even embarrassed to join him at the garbage dump and ash heap of the city. They seemed to understand that sometimes standing in solidarity means sitting with a person in their pain and loss.

That brings us to principle four.

“In The Trenches” Principle #4:
Covenant friends know the power of
practicing EMPATHY.

Empathy is such an important word and concept. Most of us are familiar with the word sympathy.  It means to “feel pity or sorrow” for someone. There are times when sympathy is a very appropriate response to someone in pain.

But the word empathy runs much deeper. Empathy is more than feeling pity for someone. It’s the ability to step into someone else’s shoes. It’s the ability to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings in a situation from their point of view, rather than your own.

One researcher and professor explained the difference between sympathy and empathy like this:

SYMPATHY is seeing someone in a deep hole while you remain firmly planted on higher ground, and talk to them from above. It’s feeling for someone.

But EMPATHY, on the other hand, is seeing your friend in a hole, but instead of staying on higher ground talking to them from above, you climb down into the hole to sit or stand beside them. You actually make yourself vulnerable to the pain their going through because you actually want to connect with them. [2]

Empathy is feeling with someone.

You don’t just feel sorry or sympathy for them. You somehow experience their pain.

Three Components of EMPATHY: [3]

Renowned researchers and psychologists, Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman have identified three components of empathy that are critical when your friend is hurting.

  • COGNITIVE: Sometimes called “perspective taking.” It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s place, to see things from their perspective, understand how they feel and what they might be thinking.  

Someone described it like this: It’s empathy by thought. You know HOW the other person FEELS and WHAT they might be thinking.

  • EMOTIONAL: It’s the ability to feel what another person is feeling. You share their emotions, almost as if they were contagious and you had “caught” them.

For instance, this is what happens when a mother smiles at her baby and the baby smiles back. The baby “catches” the emotion of his or her mom.

This is the kind of empathy expressed when someone is describing an accident or some physical pain and you wince instinctively. It’s almost as if you can vicariously “feel” their pain. That’s emotional empathy.

  • COMPASSIONATE: You not only understand the situation and feel the person’s pain, but you are moved to take action. You want to do something about it.

I love the way Henri Nouwen described what we really need when we’re “in the trenches.” He wrote:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” —Henri Nouwen [4]

Initially, this is the kind of empathy Job’s friends offered. It was brilliant.

I believe this is what Paul was getting at when he wrote:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. —Rom 12:15 ESV

Paul doesn’t say, “Fix them. Give them lots of great advice.” Or, “Give a theological explanation to those who weep…” Or, “Go to those who are weeping and tell them, ‘It’s bad, but it could have been worse…’” He simply says, Weep with them…” In other words, “If they’re sad, share their sorrow.”

The Empathy of Our God

By the way, have you ever realized that this is what God does for us?  

There’s an amazing passage that shows up in Isaiah.

In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally[a] rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years. —Isaiah 63:9 NLT

Maybe you read a passage like that and immediately think, “Yeah, right? How could God possibly understand what I’m going through? What does Isaiah mean, ‘in all their suffering, he suffered…’? When has God ever felt pain? When has God ever known what it means to suffer?”

What a great question!

According to the Bible, that’s what the incarnation, life, ministry, betrayal, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was all about.

God Himself came to earth in the person of Jesus. He was born in a Bethlehem barn, not the Marriott Grandview, Grand Bohemian or Ross Bridge Resort. He was born in a barn.  

He grew up experiencing pain, rejection, isolation, loss and loneliness.

In His hour of greatest need — when He needed His friends the most — they completely let Him down. They abandoned Him and ran. (It’s interesting that Job had three friends who came to him to sit with him in his pain. They lasted for at least seven days. But when Jesus asked three of His friends to sit with Him in his hour of greatest need, they couldn’t even last an hour. Wow.)

He was falsely accused.

He was beaten and abused without cause.

He was executed by being nailed to a cross, suspended between heaven and earth, as though He were unworthy of both.

Because of the sin He bore on our behalf, He was even abandoned by His own Father, who couldn’t bear to look upon His son as He was “made sin” for us (Matt 27:46; 2 Cor 5:21; Isa 53:2-6).

Through His betrayal, torture and death, Jesus experienced the reality of human suffering to a degree that we will never be able to understand!

The Message reads:

In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person—Isa 63:9a MSG

He experienced pain just like you and I experience pain. In fact, I would venture to say that He suffered more pain and loss than any of us will ever suffer.

Because of that, He knows about rejection, betrayal, injustice, hunger, loneliness and pain. He knows!

Because Jesus experienced pain firsthand, He has a personal perspective on private pain.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews would later encourage us to bring our weaknesses and pain to Jesus, because…

…we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. —Hebrews 4:15 NIV

Jesus empathizes with our weaknesses. He understands our pain.

How good are you at expressing empathy to someone in pain? An “in the trenches” friend knows the power of practicing empathy.

Let’s review the first four “in the trenches” principles, once again:

“In The Trenches” Principle #1:
Covenant friends are INTENTIONAL about staying connected.

“In The Trenches” Principle #2:
Covenant friends know that what gets SCHEDULED gets done. They create SYSTEMS and SCHEDULES to strengthen their friendship.

“In The Trenches” Principle #3:
Covenant friends know that our PRESENCE is one of the most powerful gifts we have to offer.

“In The Trenches” Principle #4:
Covenant friends know the power of practicing EMPATHY.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with the final post in this series on what Job’s friends got right.


[1] https://www.asurion.com/about/press-releases/americans-check-their-phones-96-times-a-day/#:~:text=Americans%20now%20check%20their%20phones,Asurion%20two%20years%20ago1.

[2] Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability, https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en

[3] Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence

[4] Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

Published by Chris Goins

My name is Chris Goins. I live in Birmingham, AL where I serve as the Lead Pastor of A2 Church + a certified John Maxwell Speaker + Coach. Welcome to my blog - a collection of ideas, quotes, insights, message notes + dynamic content intended to motivate you to reach your God-given potential + live a life of freedom and significance.

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