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.