After seven days of mourning, things aren’t getting any better for Job. And so he lauches into another round of lamentations. Job 3 is some kind of tirade. It’s a doozie. Rated R for strong language and disturbing imagery. Job curses his own existence. He says in a dozen different ways, “I wish I were dead.” He doesn’t understand what God is doing. So he asks “Why?” Over and over again, “Why, God, why?”
“I want to die.”
And then one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, decides somebody needs to say something. He tells Job in Job 4:1, “Let me say a word here. I can’t help it. I can’t keep from speaking.”
And Eliphaz spends two whole chapters trying to explain to Job what’s happening to him and why. “Job,” he says, “This is God’s will.” And he tries to spin everything theologically. He tries to make sense of it. He even accuses Job at one point: “Maybe you need to look at your own life. Maybe you’re doing something, or not doing something, that’s causing these bad things to happen. ” He gives Job advice about his prayers. Eliphaz says, “If I were you, Job, I’d think about praying more like this.”
All three of Job’s good friends start weighing in on the situation, speaking from the outside, giving advice, preaching to Job.
And this is exactly the opposite of what Job needed from his friends during his hour of great sorrow.
Hey, we’ve all had the experience of fumbling for the right words in the presence of tremendous suffering. We’ve all visited a family at a funeral home and been embarrassed because we didn’t say anything. Or we’ve felt awful because what we did say was so woefully inadequate. We take food to the home of a grieving husband or mother and we have no confidence in the things we say. We’ll see a griever at church for the first time and actually avoid speaking to him because we don’t know what to say.
Please understand this: You don’t have to say anything!
You don’t need to say a word. Just be there. Just be present. Just listen. Just sit in silence with the mourner and listen.
I know we feel like we have to say something because silence is so awkward for us. We’re uncomfortable with silence. And if we’re not saying something, we feel like we’re not doing anything. It’s like we’re not helping.
The very best thing you can do is just listen.
If the sufferer needs to cry, cry with him. If the mourner needs to complain about a family member or another specific part of his great trial, put your arm around him and nod. If the griever needs to curse his situation or shake his fist at God, sit right there beside him and let him.
The presence of God is experienced by his people through his people. The Church of God is a powerful tool by which our Father is present in this world and among his children. Our God invites us to speak and he promises us that he will be near. He will listen to us and he will comfort us in our lament. He will hear our cry. And he will console us and reassure us in our troubles.
And we can better be that loving and faithful witness and presence to others if we’ll just be there. And listen.