Job 4:1-7:21; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27
So now we begin with the conversation back and forth between Job and his three “friends.” Thus far, they have done pretty well at being supportive and comforting friends. They sat in silence with him for 7 days and just mourned with him. They probably should have left it at that because they went downhill from there. Now the friends begin conversations that don’t bring healing or comfort, but actually make things worse for Job in his grieving process.
Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been in deep grief and had someone come up and just say the wrong thing? It hurts, it’s hard. Have you ever been the one to say the word when you probably should have just stayed silent?
Job’s friends probably think they are speaking words of truth to him. In fact, there is a lot of truth in what they are saying. “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). Well, I have to agree with that. “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (5:8-9). Yes, also a true statement.
But not what Job needs to hear. And maybe it’s not even totally true to his particular situation. I am learning, as the years go by, that words, even true words, can sometimes bring more harm than good. The times in my life when I have been most discouraged, or saddened, or deeply grieving, I don’t really remember what those closest to me said, I remember what they did. I remember the tears they shed with me, I remember the touch and the hand-holding they did with me, I remember the feeling of companionship as they entered into my grief and confusion.
I do remember some words. I remember the wrong words people said. I remember the further pain those words brought. They were not harsh words. They were not mean words. They were just the wrong words at the wrong time. I remember thinking, “Why would they say such a thing to me right now, when I know they really do care?”
As a pediatric nurse with oncology patients, I have seen the power of silent companionship in grief. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can say to a mom or dad who is watching a child suffer from cancer and chemotherapy treatments. All I can offer is kindness and presence in grief.
I have a vivid memory of this silent presence in grief I will share quickly. The summer after my last year of college, I was working away at a Christian camp as the camp nurse for the summer. I was unclear where God was taking me next and feeling confused and lost. On one of my nights off, I remember going out to the parking lot to my car to find some privacy (as you know that is something there is not much of at camps for Jr. and High schoolers), and do some praying and seeking. I ended up crying, or rather, sobbing. I wasn’t even sure why then, and still don’t remember the nature of my thoughts or prayers at the time. I just felt lost. I remember a middle-aged African American woman coming up to the car and asking me if I was okay. I just shook my head yes because I really didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it. Well, she just opened the door and leaned in and gave me a big hug. She held me like that for several minutes while I just continued to sob and cry, and all she said was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus……” It was one of the most comforting and profound gifts anyone has ever given me. I didn’t even know her name. But, in the midst of my pain and sorrow, she held me in the presence of Jesus.
- Mary Matthias
How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.