Ok, I know calling Job's three friends a bunch of clowns is a great misrepresentation of their character. However, it makes a great title!
As I read the scriptures, I sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that events recorded in the scriptures follow one after another with little or no time in between. It is easy to read the book of Job and assume that the whole store happened in a relatively short period of time. But under closer inspection, we can see that the story covers a significant period of time. For example, it is likely that quite some time transpired between Satan's first attack on Job and Satan's second attack. There is also the time it took for Job's three friends to find out about Job's afflictions, to communicate with each other, to travel to meet together, and to travel together to meet with Job. All this without the aid of phones, e-mail, and jet airplanes. It is quite likely that Job had been suffering in his affliction for weeks, if not months, before his three friends arrived to comfort him.
When Job's friends did finally arrive, they were astonished at the toll Job's afflictions had taken on him. They came and sat in silence with him in silence for seven days because, "they saw that his pain was very great." For seven days they ministered to Job and supported him in his pain. And in their silence they proved the proverb that says, "even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise." (Proverbs 17:28) unfortunately, their silence did not last long. Eventually, their patience wore out.
A few years ago, I head about a study of elderly couples who had been married for a long time and then one of them died leaving the other person alone. The study showed that, for many of them, the grieving process took 18 months or more for the spouse that was left behind. Unfortunately, the support of those around them lasted only for about six weeks. After which, they kept trying to encourage the remaining spouse to "move on". Not realizing that it will take much longer for them to "move on" from their loss. After seven days, Job's friends were ready to move on, but Job wasn't. One of the things I think we can learn from this is to have patience with those who are suffering. Not to rush them to get past their pain. To let them move through the grieving process in their own time. To trust them to the healing hands of God who can and will bring them through. Compassion means, "to suffer with", even if this takes quite some time.