Sunday, January 25, 2015

They saw his grief

the Book of Job, Chapter Two

How can we comfort a grieving friend?

This is a challenge for me, and I confess I often avoid visiting sick friends because I don't know what to do or what to say. Truthfully, I'm impatient. Why are they still upset? Can't they just push through the pain? I want to say the perfect thing to make it all better, share the easy answer.

But there is often no simple solution and talking can make suffering worse. Consider Job's wife's words of wisdom: "Are you still maintaining your integrity?" she told Job who sat scraping himself with broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. "Curse God and die!" Now that's helpful!

Job's friends were more comforting.  When Job’s three friends ... 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.

As we talked about it in our group this week, often that is the best comfort: show up and shut up! Visiting friends in their distress shows we see their grief, care about them, are concerned for them, want them to be consoled and healed. Just holding their hand, praying for them, giving them a message, brushing their hair, doing their nails, bringing special food, or running errands for them, can be encouraging. Don't offer discouraging advice, such as Job's wife, or ask foolish questions. Laughter is good medicine, sharing good memories and reminiscing about happy times.

Most important, we discovered that different people are encouraged by different things. Some of us wanted people to come and have conversations with us. Others of us appreciated practical help. Others longed for quiet companionship. It is important to ASK what is needed. How else can we know?

Job's pain was extreme. He lost all his livelihood, all his children and his health. Scripture tells us it was all without cause. While he affirmed that we need to accept the trouble from God as well as the good, Job's torment was intense. Not only do I want to have Job's attitude always, but I want to be able to be more of a comfort to others when they suffer.

Father, You are a God of mercy and lovingkindness. Help me to be more like You. I have been reluctant to engage, fearful of saying the wrong thing. Guide me to lean in to them and show Your love in the ways that are most encouraging. Let me also remember that no one is exempt from misfortune and that next time the person who is suffering could be me!    

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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