All the fragile, vulnerable, needy parts of me – I offer to you, Lord as a sacrifice. Knit together my fractured parts. Be the balm that shields me in weakness, meet every longing. All of my desires are met in you. Not in any one person, social media, distraction, or possession, but in you and you alone.
When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.
Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:11-13
If you are familiar with the story of Job, you’ll know that Job’s friends get a bad rep throughout the book. (Not familiar? You can start reading his story here.) At every turn, they are offering ill-timed, unfounded, and even manipulative advice. They are (rightly) chastised for it at the end of the book, but their efforts to console their friend didn’t start out that way. What they did at first was actually the right thing.
We know that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had tender hearts toward Job. Consider the logistics of the geography at the time. Maybe they lived close to Job, but chances are they didn’t. I don’t know how they received word of his great losses, but chances are, the message lacked the immediacy of a prayer chain email or a text.
But they received it, and instead of thinking, “Oh, Job will probably be over it by the time we get there, let’s just skip it,” they got up and went, potentially over a great distance. They went to their friend in need, and what a sight greeted them. A friend so stricken with grief, they hardly knew him.
I’ll never forget the funeral for my friend Tina. I danced with her in elementary school, and again in high school, so we had many mutual friends, one of whom was my best friend. To see my best friend torn up at Tina’s death, sliced through my heart and took my breath away.
Regardless, they pressed forward to be with their friend.
Sitting in Grief
Even though they got off track in chapters 4-37, just sitting with their grieving friend was absolutely the right move. It’s one of many needed gestures in a time of tragedy, like the Las Vegas shooting. But the gift of presence surrounds a breaking heart and comforts like no other.
They saw his suffering was too great for words.
Tears. From one of the oldest books comes one of the most eloquent and piercing commentary on grief.
I think of the husband who died protecting his wife.
I think of babies who just lost their moms.
I think of young adults already scarred by their narrow brush with death.
And yes, my heart breaks for the hurtful hate that boiled inside the shooter until it spilled out in unimaginable ways.
And I see that the suffering is too great for words. So when words fail us, we can take action. We can take action and comfort others with our presence, and point them to the never failing arms of Christ. In his arms, he can handle the questions that pour out of us in times of tragedy. All of this leads to *eventually* share comfort. Not tomorrow, maybe not even next week. But sharing comfort that you have been given is another beautiful step of healing.
For those of you reading, I’m guessing you’ve experienced at least one traumatic event in your life. Maybe not to the extent of Job or the Las Vegas shooting, but then again, maybe you have. What gestures did you find helpful? Have you personally experienced the ministry of presence? I’m reminded also of this verse in times like these.
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
God plants a deeper understanding of his love and comfort in our hearts, often through trials that tear and wound. But in those tears, we find his love…deep, healing love. Love and comfort that we can extend to those who need it.
A tepid breeze lifted the leaves of the cotton plants behind the home place mixing scents of pine needles and the show pigs housed in the barn. The barns and house were bathed in heat and light that simmered and stewed.
It’s not the same walls and roof that sheltered earlier generations, the years had taken their toll and in place of the old, new walls had been constructed. Ten siblings along with their parents lived life in the white farmhouse, ten siblings that would go on to have dozens of children, and scores of grandchildren and great-grand children.
Six of the ten siblings are still alive, and those siblings are quick to reminisce about the days at “the home place.”
Their longing is tangible, as it saturates the conversation. As an apple pie fills the whole kitchen with its soulful aroma, the memories and feelings of the home place suddenly fill you, too.
Home. At the end of the day, don’t we all just want to go home?
At the home place, worries melt away as you walk through the front door. At the home place, you can always find a smiling face, a kindly word, and a delicious dessert (or four) to enjoy. There’s a place for you at the table, a place for you to stretch, take off your jacket, and sit a spell.
The powerful imagery of home pierced my soul, and my thoughts turned toward heaven. I imagine that’s what it will be like when heaven becomes our home place. We round the bend and there it is: the home we’ve always known, yet different somehow.
Jesus standing on the porch and welcoming us, “Come on in and sit a spell…” There will be friends and family gathered round, a feast to enjoy, and no time to rush us back out the door. Aunts and uncles, friends, and heroes of the faith, all together, no one excluded. How my heart longs for that day!
When I first joined Bible Study Fellowship in 2015, the book they were studying was Revelation. God led me to join that particular year to address the gaps in my understanding regarding this mysterious book of the Bible. To say it was rewarding would be an understatement. God clearly spoke through His word and I appreciated the balanced, yet joyous approach of BSF to this controversial book.
One of the weeks, we learned about the church of Laodicea. Laodicea is the last of the churches that God speaks to in the opening chapters of Revelation, and they receive the sternest correction.
Laodicea was a wealthy town known for (among other things):
Expensive eye powder
Rare black wool
Renowned medical school
Laodicea is also the church that God says he is ready to spit out of his mouth, and not just “spit,” but vomit, according to the original language. Pardon my Greek.
Why does God say that about this church? Their wealth and accomplishments lead to an attitude of self-sufficiency that left no room for God’s passion, purpose, or provision. They had it all and looked no further than their own hands and intellect to get things done. (Sound familiar?)
Even when an earthquake decimated their town, they didn’t petition Rome for help because of the massive amounts of wealth they had on hand to rebuild. If they didn’t need Rome’s help, why would they need God?
After walking through the church’s struggles, I read Revelation 3:17-18 with fresh eyes.
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Do you see how God addresses their blind spots? He convicts them precisely on their pride points: wealth, textiles, and eye health.
He calls them:
Poor (they had wealth)
Blind (they had eye powders to fix blindness)
Naked (they had expensive clothes)
It’s like telling Wisconsin their cheese is worthless. Or Milan their clothes are rags.
Sometimes sins are blatant and we know we are walking in opposition to God. But sometimes our hearts and minds are clouded, and we can’t perceive how far we are from God, just like the Laodiceans. That’s when it’s time to pray the words that David prayed so long ago:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
God was lovingly pointing them to what really mattered and what would last. He was trying to redirect their gaze to himself. Only in Him would they find lasting passion, fulfilling purpose, and unending provision. We need his love and truth to reveal those blind spots in our lives, to see the things we can’t see on our own, before we “change lanes” into something that could harm us.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank you for loving us enough to correct us, just like a parent does for their child. Help our hearts to be sensitive to your direction and leading. Reveal to us our blind spots, and help us to see the truth about ourselves: the truth of how you see us. Let us walk in genuine repentance and stay ever close to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.