“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, NIV)

There is a lesson here for anyone who might visit someone who is suffering: Words can (and often do) get in the way.

Job’s three friends were faithful, indeed: They took time to visit their afflicted brother.  Job’s friends were sympathetic: They were so moved by Job’s dis-figuration that they wept and put dust on their heads (which was a sign of mourning or penitence).  Job’s friends were sensitive: They knew that Job needed their presence more than he needed their advice, so they sat with him for seven days and nights!

None of us should expect to have all of the right words — or words at all — in such times; but all of us can choose to be faithfully present; sympathetic; and sensitive to those who are suffering. Don’t allow words to get in the way.   – Luther

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2 thoughts on “

  1. There have been times of trouble in my life when people gave me the “benefit” of their wisdom. My conclusion was that they saw “simple” solutions to my trouble in part because they did not grasp the totality of my problems.

    Your point about Job’s friends is good–they cared and they came. It seems to me their silence was the high point of their visit. Job says of them later–““I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you.” (Job 16:2–4, NIV)

    Theology is helpful both as a briefing before suffering or in the debriefing after suffering. Rarely does it help in the midst of suffering. In my life I discovered that a hug was more comfort than the finest theological discourse on suffering. Paul wrote–“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV)

    Your comments are good reminders to me to hug and keep my thoughts to myself.

  2. Bart says:

    “Don’t allow words to get in the way”…. Now, that’s a good word!

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