Job and his so-called friends

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.  And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2: 11-13, ESV).

After the seven days and seven nights his so-called friends stopped “ministering” to Job. They attacked him with accusations. Surely, in their minds, he must have grievously sinned. Job had only his wife. She was seemingly absent during this time. I can only imagine that she was doing her own grieving. Both Job and his wife had lost not just possessions and their children; Job also lost his very health. He sat upon an ash heap and scratched his sores with a piece of broken pottery. He had sympathetic company for seven days and nights. Then, his so-called friends lit into him with vicious fury. Their attacks were merciless, but not so unbelievable. There are times when the very people we would expect to support us, do not. They look for something to explain the suffering. Surely, he/she must have sinned terribly and God is punishing. God, help me not to do that!

Another meandering before I return to the account of Job. Allow me to digress and include some information as a kind of backstory. Then, I will write more about Job and his experiences.

I knew something was not right in late summer of 1998. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor. A full exam, even the dreaded rubber-gloved prostate exam. Nothing appeared abnormal. All the results came back negative. (Interestingly, in some cases negative is positive.) I felt progressively worse. A few weeks later, I returned to the doctor again. Diagnosis: infection of the prostate, also known as prostatitis. Another digital exam would be risky because it could spread the infection. So, an antibiotic was prescribed. Yet, there was no improvement. Rather, my symptoms progressively worsened. Another follow-up appointment in two weeks. Another antibiotic was prescribed. No improvement on that antibiotic either, but continued worsening of the symptoms. Another visit after two more weeks and an additional antibiotic was prescribed, with instructions to see the doctor in a week.

I knew the situation was not good, but I trusted the doctor. I am sure there was also some fear and denial. Prostate cancer?! Hardly, I was only forty-five. The symptoms continued to worsen. I was in tremendous pain and barely able to urinate. I was going to the restroom often during the day and getting up many, many times during the night. I was unable to experience relief. I could only accomplish a mere trickle. I was extremely miserable. During my final appointment with the doctor, I requested a referral to a urologist and for a digital exam. He agreed. The exam was extremely painful. He assured me there was no mass or lump that would indicate anything unusual or serious, but he agreed to refer me to a urologist. Later that day, I passed a significant amount of blood and what I knew were chunks of tumor. At least I was able to urinate freely and experienced a reduction of pressure and pain.

I saw the urologist and presented him a page-long listing of history and symptoms. He also asked a number of questions and performed a cystoscopy. He rather somberly stated: “There is shaggy growth on your urethra. He sent me home with a container for any ‘chunks’ that might have broken loose during the exam, so he could order a biopsy. Sure enough, there were several more chunks that I was able to collect. I took the samples to the doctor. On the Thursday after Labor Day, over a year after sensing that all was not well, a call came from the doctor’s office. The biopsy was positive for cancer. (Interesting that sometimes positive means something very negative.) Within the week, I was in the hospital for more scans and biopsies. Serious, to say the least. As soon as it could be arranged, I was scheduled for a radical prostatectomy. I remember the date vividly: I went under the scalpel on October 1, 1999.

More next time.