“When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon Job, they set out from their homes…to go and sympathize with him…When they saw him from a distance…they began to weep aloud…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). His friends gave four comforting gifts:
- “Then they sat…for seven days and seven nights.” What kindness. When the scenery switched from green pastures to the shadow of death, the psalmist said, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” God does not usually answer the “why” questions, but He comes with His presence.
Suffering often makes God feel distance. In truth He is never closer, showing His bias for the broken. Presence trumps preaching. Be there.
- They employed their eyes, not their mouths. “Whey they saw him…, they saw how great his suffering was.” They had nothing to say, so they didn’t.
Their silence gave Job courage to share his dark soul. He spoke only after seven days of quiet, which says something about the reluctance of hurting people to share honestly.
- “They began to weep aloud…” We won’t need them in the new earth, so don’t save them up. When Karen was grieving the loss of our child shortly before birth and in labor, I heard her on the phone saying to her brother, “Thank you for crying with me.”
- A week of silence is an incredibly generous gift. Grieving people need time—patient friends grant it. Time with tears speaks love.
What threw them off? For openers, Job cursed his birth day (3:1). Then he accused God of hedging him in. The reactions were not close to kind. They corrected Job’s faulty theology. Warning: suffering people ask basic questions. Grief, accompanied by anger and fear, throws us off equilibrium.
If you need to defend God’s reputation, plan to ruin yours. Trust me: it was not time to get Job back on sound doctrine. And prophecies of hope do not lift those experiencing the dark night of the soul. Take comfort in the words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”