The famous quote from Solomon in Proverbs 17:17 is that “a brother is born for adversity.” My sister, unfortunately, used to lift this verse out of context and use it as a justification that mom had given birth to me in order that I might give grief to her. Her brother was born in order to give her adversity. Sad to say, many times through the years I have proven her interpretation to be correct.
It appears, however, that Solomon had something vastly different in mind when he penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Solomon is saying that a brother is born to help us in tough times. A brother, by definition, sticks with you when adversity strikes because that is what family does. Brothers prove they are brothers in the moments of adversity. Brothers are brothers in the fullest sense of that word when adversity strikes.
This being the case, I wonder how my Christian brotherhood rates. When that family in my church has just lost a loved one, when that preacher friend of mine has a wayward teenage son, when a moral lapse creeps into a dear friend’s life, do I then manifest my presence? Unfortunately, it seems that many of us shirk our family responsibilities when adversity raises its ugly head.
I have a dear deacon in my church who seems very sensitive to my adversities. When he senses that things are becoming difficult for me, he reaches out. And this happens in spite of the fact that I try to hide adverse circumstances. Nevertheless, he always has that fifth sense about it and reaches out at just the right time with a handshake, a kind word, and sometimes an encouraging gift.
When Job’s three miserable counselors (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) came to Job, they ruined a golden opportunity. Eliphaz bragged about what he had been through. Bildad blasted Job for being a sinner. And Zophar responded with a cute little piece of doggerel, akin to the person who thinks a Helen Steiner Rice card is the cure-all for any malady.
Job, however, was not looking for answers. To be quite honest, there were none. Nobody on earth was aware of God’s conversation and debate with the devil. Therefore, no one really knew the real reason Job had lost his wealth and health. It was not their job to provide answers; it was their job to provide assistance.
Are you the type of friend that provides suave for the wound? Or are you the type of “friend” that makes trouble more irritable? Which interpretation of Proverbs 17:17 best describes you? The one offered by my sister? Or the authentic interpretation? Do you respond like my dear deacon friend? Or are you more like Job’s miserable counselors?
I think of pastor friends in my past – those who have been asked to resign (some when it was their fault and some when it was not), those who have been without ministry for months while their resumes lay unheeded by pulpit committees, those who minister in unknown segments of the harvest in isolation and loneliness, those who have been battling nasty board members and their wives, those who have had staff members undercut years of personal investment, and those who suffer frequent panic attacks simply because of the stress of ministry. I am reminded that these and a host of other fiery darts are fired frequently by the devil into the camp of God’s people. And when the darts come, I want to be there. After all, this is not the definition of a pastor. This is the definition of a brother.