I’ve always been captivated by the friends of Job in the Bible.
You remember Job – the man of suffering. He suffered the loss of everything. He lost children, finances, health, and finally the respect of his wife.
Somewhere in the grief process his friends came to see him. You can start reading about Chapter 2. They provide a bulk of the dialogue in the book.
I think we can learn a few things about how to be friends to those who are hurting from the friends of Job. I would love some day to share my thoughts with them.
Here are 5 things I’d say to Job’s friends:
Thanks for showing up. Sometimes physical presence is the most comforting way to help someone grieve a loss. When a friend shows up even at times when it may be uncomfortable – that’s what it means to be a friend. You proved to be a true friend. You even sat with Job — apparently not even eating — for seven days.
Thank you. Your witness is well-noted.
It’s important to always speak truth. As much as I love that you came, I need to also say that in times of suffering friends may need love more than they need answers. Some people in your culture apparently believed that all suffering was the result of sin. Maybe you didn’t know this part, but we know that’s not true about Job.
Therefore, it’s usually best not to provide commentary to another person’s suffering. You see, it simply doesn’t help.
So, you should have just said what you knew to be true. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s only stuff like, “Wow! You’re hurting. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m here for you!”
Not everything has to be explained. You had a lot of “ideas” why Job was suffering. Thanks for your insight. I’m certain he listened closely to you, because you were there and you were his friends. The problem is you couldn’t possibly understand all that God was allowing in Job’s life nor could you predict his final outcome.
Again, maybe explanations are more burdensome than they are helpful in a time of grief.
Silence isn’t deadly. Seriously. Sometimes silence is gold. Being quiet can even be the godly thing to do. Consider Ecclesiastes 5:2 for an example. You were actually at your best — before you started talking. The days you were silent were possibly as much help to Job as anything you did. It was your presence that was most valuable.
Therefore, don’t be afraid just to demonstrate your love with your presence more than with your words.
You help me better understand the Bible. Seriously, you do. See, I know the Bible is true. All of it. I believe it cover to cover. The whole Bible is truth. But not everything written in the Bible is true. It’s truth in that it’s God’s written word and it happened as it is written.
However, we cannot guarantee it as true, however, unless God is the One who says it. People talk in the Bible – people like you. So does the evil one.
And some of the things you said, while it is true you said them, they simply weren’t true. You meant well. But it’s not truth unless it comes from God’s mouth or it amplifies His truth.
So, I learn from that from you, Job’s friends. Thank you.
As a result of what I have learned from you, I must be present when my friends are hurting most. Everything doesn’t need to be explained. Not everything needs my input or my attempt at a solution. I should be okay with silence.
Also, may I never take what I’ve heard — or what’s culturally acceptable — as an indication of truth. It is important to stick with the Scriptures and an accurate interpretation of them.
And, when I don’t know truth to share, I’ll just be silent. And be present. Fully present.