Earlier this school year, I read, chapter by chapter, through the book of Job with our boys.
Admittedly, reading the entire book of Job is not the most fun. It is quite a long book of the Bible, plus, the dude goes through pretty much every horrible life event a person could endure. He loses all of his children, he loses his livelihood, he loses his health. Job becomes absolutely miserable. The book is, in many ways, depressing and discouraging. And yet, the lessons I came away with from reading the book of Job have served me well – when I remember them.
There are three main lessons I learned while reading the book of Job. One – Job refused to curse God and never stopped talking to Him, even in his misery. Two – Job wasn’t afraid to “let God have it” while talking with Him. There weren’t a lot of flowery, cheerful words shared while Job was lying there grieving his family and miserably ready to scrape his skin sores off with broken pottery.
And Lesson Number Three – Job’s friends did best when they kept their mouths shut.
In Job chapter two it says,
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2: 11-13
Seven days and nights – no one said a word. They saw their friend’s misery, they wept for him, they hurt for him, they cared for him. And they simply sat with him.
I felt very challenged by that. What great friends! I want to be a friend like this!
Oh but wait – Job’s friends couldn’t keep their mouths shut. Eventually, they could stand it no longer and began giving Job all kinds of unwanted advice, even offering suggestions as to why Job was suffering. And they didn’t just say a few words, they went on and on for chapters! (Not that they knew they were speaking in Biblical chapters, but you get what I mean.) Now, not only was Job grieving and in great physical pain, he had idiot friends to deal with too. Just what he needed.
When a friend is suffering, often there are no words necessary – we just need to shut-up and be. Just sit. Just be there. Pray. That’s it.
When in doubt, when you aren’t sure what to say, when you can’t find the words you wish you could find that might offer comfort to your hurting friend – consider keeping your mouth shut, your ears open, and a prayer always on your heart. That may be just what your friend really needs.